DALIAN, China // Abu Dhabi will start collaborating with several big cities around the world to promote sustainable planning and diversified economic growth, under an agreement to be signed today in China. The agreement is the brainchild of the Urban Planning Council (UPC) and Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, which plan to use the offices of the World Economic Forum (WEF), an informal think tank, to facilitate the global consultation on urban design.
"Cities are incubators of good ideas and it would be arrogant to think we know everything," said Michael White, the senior planning manager of the UPC, who is attending a meeting of the World Economic Council in Dalian. The research effort will look at all aspects of sustainability in cities, not just waste, power and water, but also social amenities such as schools and shops, cultural attractions and "liveability", Mr White added.
The UPC has incorporated such considerations into the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, which envisages a huge expansion of the capital and a tripling of the population to three million in two decades. But many other cities have come up with ideas of their own which Abu Dhabi hopes to study during an initial one-year consultation. "There are lots of great initiatives under way," Mr White said. "What we want to do with this agreement is bring together the conversation, sharing information so we can all be better off."
Abu Dhabi hopes to benefit from the experience of cities such as Chicago, Seattle, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Berlin. But there will be a special focus on MENA. Preliminary findings will be presented at the WEF in Marrakech in October next year. "There will be a report but we want this to be an ongoing process of dialogue," Mr White said. Since its creation in 2007, the UPC has drawn up master plans for several parts of the emirate, including Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain, and is now entering detailed planning and implementation.
In some areas, such as the Corniche, Shahama, Khalifa City and Mohammed Bin Zayed City, the UPC has started work on regenerating communities. This might involve building schools and hospitals or upgrading public spaces. In other areas, UPC has begun to award contracts for the development of greenfield projects, such as the Capital District, the new area for ministries and embassies near the airport.
The consultation with other cities will inform all these developments through planning, consultation and implementation. The project will also look back at urban innovations that worked well in the past. Two examples in the Gulf are the alignment of streets to best capture the prevailing winds and installing wind towers to improve ventilation. "These kinds of things can get forgotten about and you end up planning against nature," Mr White said, adding that the streets of the Capital District would be orientated north-west and south-east for that reason.