Diamond in the Rough
MCP 02 - 06 - 2010

Diamond in the Rough MCP_Theory_2-6-10 When someone mentions the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in relation to the design world, the first thoughts are of the quickly developing city of Dubai, with the tallest building in the world, an indoor ski slope, and the massive man-made islands in the shape of a palm and the continents of the earth. What was once desert, is now a vast land of skyscrapers, five star resorts, manicured golf courses, and large water features. Buildings that would otherwise be too expensive, require too many resources, or refuse to even give a 'nod' towards sustainability, are being constructed on a grand scale. Even Dubai's urban planning has resulted in the need for the automobile to travel even the shortest distances and mass transit is just now being constructed. This city is quite possibility the worst example of sustainability and represents the global culture of consumerism and neglectful attitude towards the environment. Taking all of the above into account, the UAE has begun the initial stages of constructing a green city, known as Masdar City. The whole city-from individual buildings to city planning to energy production--has been designed with principles of sustainability. Ensuring social, economic, and environmental goals have been taken into account in every design decision. New technologies and research stations are being incorporated and the first phase of construction is underway. Masdar is committed to making living soils out of the sand, plant natives, create micro-climates through careful site planning, be carbon-neutral, encourage pedestrian circulation (& prohibit autos), capture rain water and open up ground water 'lenses' for thermal cooling and habitat expansion; and grow food locally to name a few. While I am intrigued by the work being done at Masdar City, I question the premise that is indeed sustainable, considering it is located in the middle of a desert. But instead of debating the effectiveness of 'sustainable' development in a desert, it is more productive to take what technologies are being developed in this city and use it as an example for other locations throughout the world. While Masdar City is in the early stages, it is a good example of how sustainability is a possibility in almost any setting. If the UAE can be on the cutting edge of sustainable technology research and development, it shows that the rest of the world should be able to meet the challenge as well. Picture: The Burge Dubai (Kalefa), the tallest building in the world and an example of the mass consumption and extravagant construction projects that have taken over in the city of Dubai. Sketch: This is a diagram of a planting scheme being developed in Masdar City to provide natural shade/cooling for the fruit and vegetable production. Rows of palm trees will filter the sunlight for fruit and nut trees, while those trees will in turn filter the sunlight to herbs and vegetables below them. These simple planting and site planning decisions are being employed throughout the city as a common sense approach to sustainable living.

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