In a region that at times seems obsessed with being the biggest and the best in all things property related, we can now claim one more trophy: the most enormous city model. Well, perhaps. The Abu Dhabi city model, which measures 23 metres by 17 metres and is on a scale of 1:2000, is a block-by-block, superproject-by-superproject rendering of what the city will look like, according to the city's 2030 plan. "Other cities have them but I don't think there has been one done on this scale," said Michael White, the senior planning manager with the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.
Mr White was sitting on the second floor of the exhibit where a balcony offered a bird's-eye view of the exhibit, which is arguably most impressive when various projects are lit up as a five-minute movie tells of the city's master plan. A collection of black and white photographs along the wall showing Abu Dhabi in past years served to highlight the grandeur of the futuristic landscape below. The idea for the model was to provide to developers and potential property buyers a view of the scores of projects under way in the context of the larger city.
"We wanted to show the whole picture at once," Mr White said. "You start to see some of the issues that will develop. 'How close is this to shopping? Where will I go to watch a football game?'" The task of building the model fell to Pipers, a London-based architectural modelling firm. The firm maintains its only foreign office in Abu Dhabi. Pipers spent the better part of a year building a puzzle of 262 separate sections that were eventually fitted together to form the complete model.
The hardest part was tracking down each of the developers active in the city and obtaining the necessary information to incorporate into the design, said Matthew Quinn, the Middle East partner for Pipers. The mandate was never to create the biggest model; just to build it to a scale that captured the size and complexity of the city, he said. As to whether the model is actually the world's biggest, he laughed and said, "It is a little difficult to know that." Mr White said the model will be dismantled after Cityscape but will be kept on hand, as a resource for developers and the general public and would be updated.