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The October 2011 issue of Journal FES, the Florida Engineering Society’s monthly magazine, featured ONE as a prime example of innovation.
An exciting new community is coming to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.): AECOM is helping to build cultural housing next door to the city’s fast race track and the fastest rollercoaster in the world.
In the U.A.E., culture, nature and community are blending in with the fast pace that visitors now enjoy — Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Etihad Airways Formula 1 Grand Prix; and Ferrari World, the world’s first Ferrari indoor theme park where thrill seekers can take a ride on the world’s fastest rollercoaster. To complement the glitz, glamour and speed, AECOM helped create the development of Yas Island — the name of this exciting new island development. On a 544-acre (220-hectare) site, Yas Island is situated on the northern tip of the U.A.E.’s capital, Abu Dhabi.
AECOM has prepared the detailed master plan for Zone K Residential Community and two separate sites adjacent to the nearby world-class Yas Links Golf Course on Yas Island, under the guidance of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces. Zone K will be a premier community for U.A.E. citizens, who are locally known as Emiratis. The development is a key part of delivering the Emirate’s Vision 2030 plan to deliver high-quality housing for Emirati families.
“At the heart of the local culture is family, and built around that is the home,” says AECOM’s Millicent Drabble, senior planner who project managed the master plan. “From our understanding of this, there is a strong value of privacy, which then influences the spatial arrangement of the community and the provision of shared community spaces.”
Inside the natural mangrove-lined site surrounded with crystal clear turquoise waters, the Zone K master plan is being developed to build nearly 1,250 villas, which will be designed and set in a landscape that is considerate of the traditions of the Emirati culture. This means embracing traditional elements, such as ensuring housing designs include a “majlis,” which is a separate meeting area, and respecting the desire for privacy around the home by incorporating high walls to deter prying eyes.
There is a greater shift towards a higher standard of living for the Emirati people that is derived from the Western vernacular, while still maintaining cultural elements such as privacy and separation. Better understanding of the private-public interface of the Emirati community allowed AECOM to produce a higher quality master plan.
“The greatest challenge is finding the balance between ensuring that we respect the culture and needs of the people, while preparing a development that is technically efficient and also considers the climate and geography of the region,” says AECOM’s Helen Eastman, senior environmental planner, Abu Dhabi.
The project is targeting a 2 Pearl Estidama Community Rating. Estidama, meaning sustainability in Arabic, is a new rating system that helps to guide and implement sustainable initiatives in development. Eastman has worked closely with the Urban Planning Council to prepare these guidelines to ensure responsible development that promotes social sensitivity, economic viability and most important, environmental consideration that respects the region’s culture.
There is currently a local government strategy in place to increase housing for the native community. The provision of community facilities is also an integral part of the development. There are different neighborhood centers, including waterfront access and dining, two schools, convenience and boutique retail stores, residents’ clubs, and mosques. And, the Zone K community places a strong emphasis on safe, accessible pedestrian connectivity within the neighborhood.
“Promoting a healthy, active lifestyle has been an important element of the master plan,” says Drabble. “So, the public realm includes a rich spatial network of parks and promenades inviting recreation, exercise, gatherings and play, while celebrating the natural setting of the site.”
In fact, Drabble has taken a special interest in the design and makeup of Emirati housing and communities. “From the outset, this project has been about culturally responsive design — creating sustainable communities that respect the Emirati way of life,” says Drabble. “Through my research for the master plan, I realized that very little had been recorded publicly about Emirati housing design, and with very little public consultation as part of the planning process, there is much to learn from the local Emirati residents.”
Drabble has now secured funding through AECOM for further research on the subject to further improve the development of Emirati communities prepared by the Abu Dhabi studio.
“Integrated, multidisciplinary projects like the Zone K master plan provide AECOM with the opportunity to leave a legacy for Abu Dhabi, demonstrating integrity and sincerity in our approach to building sustainable communities for the future generations of Emirati,” concludes Drabble.