ZGW 02 - 16 - 2010

Walkability is the simplest method for designing a sustainable city. In many instances it is hard to make the adjustment back to a walkable city after the overtake of the automobile, but in the case of the built from scratch cities of Masdar in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the chance to make a completely walkable city was within reach. Both cities accomplish aspects of walkability and miss out on others. Dubai is a city of immense flamboyancy and wealth. Since spending money is a city-wide pastime it is no surprise that at the foot of the world's tallest building sits the worlds largest shopping mall. Situated around an artificial lake featuring the Dubai Fountain with multiple other small developments and hotels, this area of the city can only be experienced on foot. The design shows a strong understanding of what it takes to create a successful urban situation, but beyond this small developed area is a ring of wide highways with no pedestrian consideration. No level of success in the fountain area can make up for the fact that it requires a vehicle to arrive there. A wider application of the pocketed principles seen throughout the city could completely transform the view of Dubai to the world. Masdar city is just the opposite. Designed to be a carbon neutral, livable laboratory for sustainability, Masdar boasts complete walkability with an intricate transit system for any longer distance. Still in the long process of being built, the theories of Masdar have yet to be tested against time. One potential problem for the walkable city is its level of livability. Built on a desert plane, Masdar isolates itself from nearby Abu Dhabi and requires a full commitment of its denizens to live within its boarders completely and for commuters to treat it as a destination. Typically, a successful sustainable development will avoid both these requirements. Instead of starting life new, most will pull from the already beating heart of a city like Abu Dhabi. The immense amount of funds being invested could be used just as successfully transforming the capital of one of the world's richest countries. Instead, the sterile laboratory chooses to ignore the parking garages outside the city boarders and claim carbon neutrality over urban livability.

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