RMJM's New York and Dubai offices work to bring the old back into New Dubai
Around Dubai, towers spring up almost in the blink of an eye. Glass and steel permeates the skyline creating a jagged, sparkling and intensely futuristic cityscape. But within this towering city a new type of futuristic landscape is set to challenge this aesthetic. International architects RMJM have been chosen by investors Nakheel to design Madinat Al Soor – a pedestrianised city which will house 22,000 new residents.
Part of OMA’s Waterfront City, Madinat Al Soor will occupy a much lower profile across the water from the “Manhattan of Dubai” says RMJM’s Design Studio Director Steven Gifford. “What’s different about it is, in Dubai, it’s a harsh climate in terms of heat planning principles. Even the idea that people will walk fairly significant distances, that is fairly different for Dubai . This is not a high-rise city.” He adds, “This is almost like the Greenwich village or Soho of New York.”
Pedestrianisation is the key to the design in this city. It is being designed to be “so pedestrian friendly that people would be happy to walk two miles,” says Gifford. “The elevations will have a lot of sun shading - it is about controlling light and shadow to make it beautiful and allowing people to enjoy being out in it and not just in their buildings.” To achieve this, the buildings themselves will shade other buildings. Instead of the wide streets typically constructed in ‘New Dubai’ much narrower streets will be built creating much needed shade from the extreme temperatures. Gifford explains that intriguing design is important in encouraging people to walk rather than take other transport. He advised that the design will look to inspiration from “great examples of architecture throughout the world which offer a pleasant, humanistic feel – we are looking to bring this back into Dubai.”
Translated in English as City of the Wall, Madinat Al Soor will feature a thick wall based at the western element, inhabited by retail outlets, private residences and hotels – the thick walls contributing to the sustainability involved in cooling the city by design as opposed to artificial cooling elements necessary in glass and steel designs. Gifford states that this will also help to make this a “destination place”.
Madinat Al Soor will be linked into the national train system and for those who struggle to walk within the city a tram service will also function within the city. Alongside the obvious emissions reduction it is hoped that the combination of solar shading, light ventilated roof systems and landscape design could result in energy savings of between 30 and 40 percent.
Recent reports by ESI advised that Dubai will soon face a skills shortage in the construction industry. Gifford is confident that this will not affect the development with Nakheel employing several of the top construction companies in the UAE. “Waterfront City is a big step forward in terms of masterplanning in Dubai,” he said, “If the pace of construction slows down just a little bit that will be great for the masterplanning and for the design – and for the workforce.
“We are looking forward to this design project as a way to create something totally unique to Dubai but also a new way of designing a city that is much more sustainable,” he said, “this is why we are looking to the old-city because they had to be sustainable. They had no choice.”
Niki May Young