x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Author laments architect's departure

Abu Dhabi would have had 'a theme and culture of its own', says the author of Rags to Riches, which documents the history of the capital.

ABU DHABI // The author of Rags to Riches, which documents the history of Abu Dhabi, says the city would have been far more beautiful if the first chief town planner's ideas had been fully implemented. Mohammed al Fahim, the honorary chairman of the Al Fahim Group, spent much of his childhood in the palace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan.

His father worked with the founder of the UAE for more than four decades. Mr Fahim said Dr Katsuhiko Takahashi "set out to design the roads and the Corniche and different places". "He planned for the wide roads and for the spaces in between, the greenery for the service centres, market places and commercial entities," he said. "He was far ahead of his time." Mr Fahim said when Dr Takahashi left, partly because the authorities wanted a planner who spoke Arabic, the troubles started.

"Town planning has gone from bad to worse," he said. "If he had stayed, Abu Dhabi would have been a beautiful place with a theme and culture of its own, but that is lost to us now, unfortunately." One of Dr Takahashi's ideas was to leave Abu Dhabi island as a natural habitat, "with just a few tourist resorts on the beach side", and start development of the new town extending from the Mafraq Hospital area towards Sweihan, Mr Fahim said.

"He cited many reasons for that, mainly that Abu Dhabi island would need to be developed and would need a lot of refilling as it was a low-lying area and didn't have the potential for heavy construction. "Dr Takahashi also said with further expansion, Abu Dhabi island would not have been big enough to cope with an influx of population. ... He cited a lot of reasons, which were all correct and very feasible.

"Unfortunately, the authorities overruled him. The island did need refilling and the Government had to pay a lot of money for it." @Email:kattwood@thenational.ae