Food City: Dubai’s Self-Sufficient Ecotopia

by , 05/13/09

sustainable design, green building, gcla, vertical farm, solar power, alternative energy, food city dubai, green architecture, renewable energy

This past February, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce authorized the development of a “free zone” dubbed Food City. GCLA, a green landscape architect firm, proposed a master plan for the city sector to turn it into an incredible off-the-grid, self-sufficient metropolis. GCLA’s future-forward urban quarter incorporates an extensive list of sustainable urban planning ideas, including vertically stacked landscape surfaces, artificial roof landscapes, renewable energy systems, aquatic farms, and thermal conditioning.

sustainable design, green building, gcla, vertical farm, solar power, alternative energy, food city dubai, green architecture, renewable energy

GCLA has described their proposal for Food City as the “the marriage of landscapes and urbanism“. Their project integrates a variety of proposals to decrease overall energy use — concentrated solar collectors, towers covered in thin-film photovoltaic cells, piezoelectric pads in pedestrian areas, and methane harvesting through sewage percolation tanks.

GCLA also proposes water conservation measures critical to off-the-grid survival in water-starved Dubai, like atmospheric water harvesting, solar desalination through concentrated solar collectors, grey water recycling, and application of hydroponic sand to minimize water loss. Essentially, GCLA’s vision is an amalgamation of nearly every urban sustainability initiative in the past few years. It’s certainly utopian, but it may ultimately prove necessary.


sustainable design, green building, gcla, vertical farm, solar power, alternative energy, food city dubai, green architecture, renewable energy

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  1. 1980wayne July 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Why build it in dubai? why not in a country that needs something like this? I’d say africa needs something like this first.

  2. madscirat January 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    OK I’ve devoted my life to developing the sort of technology that will bring us out of the industrial era and into the next, so I have no problem with dreaming. That being said, I am becoming frustrated by a common theme I see in all such designs: they are all inacheivable. The reason is because they are made with no grasp on economic reality. Instead of a giant twirling mega expensive sun tower, how about some simple aquaponics ssystems. These are cheap systems (they can be made out of 50% junk if your clever enough) and they can help cities to feed themselves rather than being a drain on outlying farmland. Remember the number one eliminator of biodiversity is habitat destruction.

    The problem with ideas like the one I mentioned above is the very fact that they are achieveable. This is the reason governments support ethanol but not biofuels, hydrogen cells but not biocells. Corn ethanol will never work as a replacement for gas, so it is superior in the mind of someone who doesn’t want any change but wants to appear as if he/she does. The same is true of hydrogen which requires electricity to produce, yet we never hear the end of it. Why? Because it doesn’t work. Leaders both political and non know that people want change, but they themselves are invested in the stasu quo. Their solution is to present breath taking alternatives that won’t work so that as we all “ooh” and “aww” over them, things may continue as per normal.

  3. Voicez December 23, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Brandon, it’s not Dubai that has money, its the hard cash of people like you and I that go and stay in the banks (compulsory salary transfer) who in return fund these fantasy projects,

    Ever wondered why banks don’t allow you to withdraw hard cash more than a particular amount. And if you need to withdraw all your money, you will have to go through strenuous procedures for your own BLOODY money!!

    Only God can help us now 😉

    And for the self-proclaimed epistemologist s like OBOB on the comments, –> “When a fool brings you news, ‘VERIFY’ it.”. So please take off your blinders and break outta your bubble, and start looking at things in a way, more constructive to all of us here on the forum, and to mankind in large. Just like people here in Dubai are trying to achieve.


  4. stevevelegrinis May 17, 2009 at 1:32 am

    obob, your comments sound very much like the words of someone who trusts blindly in journalism and has never been to dubai or asia.

    The ‘slaves’ you speak of are good people who have chosen to be here because the salaries and living conditions are substantially better than what is available in India or Pakistan where most of the labor in Dubai comes from. By and large most workers accomodation in Dubai is now meeting reasonable standards and temporary labour camps have been outlawed. Like anywhere there are exceptions to the rule but things are not the dystopian hell you describe. I can assure you that the treatment of labour in Dubai is quite a lot better than in other places in Southeast Asia i have seen.

    Flaws and all Dubai is the prototypical 21st Century city and (just as was the case with manhattan) most people didnt like it at the time. Your refusal to accept it on its own terms is naive. The reality is that development everywhere throughout time has been built on the backs of imported and/or indentured labour. Be it the southern european and asian immigrants in Australia or the multitudes of immigrants in the US the hard work is always done by those coming from less prosperous circumstances.

    Rather than sensationalise you may want to re-read the above and see that it was a speculative proposal aiming at raising consciousness about sustainable development. No labourers were harmed in the creation of this imagery.

  5. obob May 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Here’s a productive idea, roy: for the sake of the sustainability of the rest of the planet, let’s tell the truth about megalomaniacal hereditary vampires like Sheikh Makhtom. Did he lose his taste for little boys after he replaced the jockeys with robots? Or was that just another PR-generated mirage, like most everything else we hear about the greatness of Dubai? Get a clue: all those “great, inspiring minds” in Dubai are imported to paper over the true basis of the economy there: human slavery.

  6. roy domingo May 15, 2009 at 5:43 am

    This will be build by inspiring people….and planned by great minds;
    i think the shek of dubai is a very promising leader of his time:…many of this green revolotion is pupping up like mushroom; this is a good idea.dessert to green,not green to dessert;
    Some critics are just impormative,they are not productive;

  7. gnosis May 14, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    An artists’ dreams become our realities — dream on!!

  8. obob May 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    “Theoretically” to be built by slaves, no doubt, like the rest of that dystopian hell?

    Dubai can’t turn back to sand fast enough.

  9. stevevelegrinis May 14, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Brandon, dont worry – it was a theoretical proposal and most likely will end up going no further than what you see. Dubai has ground to a halt so it is very unlikely that it will ever be more than a conceptual idea.

  10. Brandon Buttars May 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Crazy. Man does Dubai have way too much money.

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