Residential Island Masterplan

  • projecturban design2008Abu Dhabiwith Mark Saade
    urban design, landscaping, uae, featured






    Abu Dhabi is poised to become the Gulf'™s most interesting destination, thanks to the clear political will and cultural policy of its government. It has managed, over the last few years, to find a direction that will differentiate it from other Gulf cities like Dubai, by becoming the centre of high quality cultural, developmental, and architectural projects. Unlike other Gulf cities, Abu Dhabi looks for quality of development rather than for cheer quantity or size.

    In particular, it is clear that Abu Dhabi is committed to sustainable development as a long term strategy, the experience of which could be exported globally. That is a progressive attitude that goes hand in hand with the emirate’s commitment to the fostering of high culture.

    The greatest vehicles of this commitment are of course the Masdar Initiative and city, and Saadiyat Island.

    These are magnificent examples of how wealth can be used to benefit the good of the whole planet.

    We have chosen to address the design of the Residential Development on *** Island with a similar attitude and respect for sustainable development and natural and cultural resources.

    From the start, it was clear that the 17 square kilometre site would have relatively very little construction on it and as such the design exercise was really about producing an elegant and iconic landscape fitting with Abu Dhabi's progressive image.

    The idea is to transform an otherwise arid and artificial island, into a whole natural world with topographical, geographical and geological diversity.

    The island is therefore banded into highly differentiated natural and spatial environments, creating different ecosystems and development options.

    We have chosen to erode the artificial boundaries of the island to give it a more natural aspect. The northern edge, facing the city, is a wetland ecosystem of halophyte and other salt-tolerant plants.

    The southern edge of the island is carved out to allow for a lagoon to appear, separated from the open sea by a mangrove island, and eventually underwater, by a coral reef.

    Between these elements we have bands of dense forestation, creating a habitat for different species of birds and wildlife.

    Sandwiched between the forest bands, is a band of palm groves, and bands of sandy and grassy plains, as metaphors for deserts and green fields. We can imagine these to be great for horseback riding, and why not, falcon hunting.

    The landfill removed to create the lagoon is used to form a "œmountain" feature, effectively a 120m high hill that adds relief and distant visibility to the otherwise flat island. It works with the dense trees to further protect the main villas from sand blowing in from the "œdesert" field, and shields the private sector from views in. If a small wind farm is feasible over the "œdesert" field, the hill will hide the view and noise of the large turbines from the villas.

    A 60m wide canal links different ends of the island, forming a "œriver" feature that meets the lagoon at an estuary flanked by agricultural quality land.

    The landscape bands in turn are affected with different programmatic functions.

    Another order is superposed on top of the landscape: in the continuity of Abu Dhabi'™s Al Saada street, a virtual axis opens up a sea port in the heart of the island, protected by the main sea gate structure. Approaching from the city, the view is a grand water axis, with an elegant bridge passing over, and lush forest in the background.

    The sea port effectively divides the palm grove band, the "formal" platform, into two zones, helping security issues.

    The eastern wing has 3 VVIP Guest Villas sitting on a private beach on the lagoon, each with its full amenities. Each villa is serviced by its own helipad. At the end of the western formal axis, we have placed a Horse Track and Stables. From this strategic position, the horses can access the forest, the desert, as well as the wetlands, reminding us of the beautiful landscape of the Camargue in France.

    Tucked behind the Horse Track, we have placed the Clinic, Staff Accommodation, General Stores and Reservoirs for fuel and water, and Technical and Service Docks, accessible through their own mini port from the sea.

    The western wing houses the main public buildings (Main Gate, Main Majlis, Daily Majlis, Palace Administration and Telephone Operator and other offices, the Mosque, and associated car parks and visitor welcoming facilities).

    A second virtual axis extends the formal zone in the alignment of Mohamed Bin Khalifa street, towards the south western tip of the island, helping link the island formally and metaphorically with the city proper. This perpendicular axis becomes the main avenue leading to the Main Villa, sitting at the most prominent spot of the island: maximum privacy and best views to the sea, with a properly grand approach, flanked by water canals and lush green landscapes.

    Symbolically and spatially, it is also a unifying axis, linking the city, the wetlands, the forest, the palm groves, through the gateway formed by the Daily Majlis and Office Administration buildings, over the river, through the "desert" band, the green plains and mountain, the lush forest, all the way to the sea.

    On either side of the Main Villa (also accessible through its own private port to the south-west), we have placed the Private Villa, and a proposed Private Museum and Library. Shaded promenades link these elements together, while a private road connects them together and with the proposed Private Beach and Leisure Compound, a crescent shaped, oasis-like feature at the north-western tip of the "desert" zone.

    Architecturally, we have chosen a timeless, almost classical formalism with modern articulation. We believe it gives elegant grandeur without being either pastiche or trendy. It is obvious that more refinements can be done over the development stage of the design, to better suit the Client'™s requirements.



    This project forms the perfect setting for the Client'™s Residential Complex. Formal and private at the same time, its primal quality is that its image fits completely within the current policy and vision of Abu Dhabi as a model for sustainable design and culture.