Foster + Partners' ambitious plan to create “the world’s first carbon neutral zero-waste city” is slowly becoming a reality of epic proportions. The prototypical sustainable city, Masdar, is currently under construction twenty miles outside of Abu Dhabi. When finished, the city will be powered entirely by renewable energy, making it one of the world’s most sustainable urban developments. This past week, residents started moving into the new 3 ½ acre area surrounding Masdar Institute, the city’s very own sustainability-driven research center, which is devoted to the development of alternative energy.
Inspired by the architecture and planning of traditional Arab cities, Foster + Partners seamlessly combined ancient building techniques with modern technological advancements. Meshing these two distinct forms of design, they created a city in which tradition is as important as modernization.
Rising from the archetypical desert landscape are two opposing styles of buildings. Laboratories are housed in modern concrete structures covered in a strong translucent plastic called ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene topped with photovolactic panels. On the other hand, residential buildings are clad in an undulating terra-cotta-like latticework based on traditional Arabic mashrabiya screens that mimic an architectural vocabulary indigenous to the area.
Foster + Partners oriented Masdar on a Northwest-Southwest axis, laying out the streets on angles so that apartment dwellers never look directly into the windows of adjacent buildings. This takes into account the importance of privacy in Arab nations while optimizing shading and reducing the need for artificial light and air conditioning in both residential and commercial spaces. Each section will also feature green open-air spaces with wind towers which capture and cool the prevailing winds, reduce solar gain, and function as a social center throughout the city.
Masdar continues to expand its ideals and program to accommodate a larger population and the demand for a sustainable city. With construction well underway, it’s clear that the city is on its way to becoming a sustainable and self-sufficient development in the desert.
Via NY Times
Photos © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners