The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've overcome all social problems and also grown greener to become super-ecofriendly. This week, we showcase the urban future of Abu Dhabi.
“Cities grow great only when citizens plant trees whose shade they will not live to enjoy” (ancient Arab proverb)
In the early 21st century, Abu Dhabi is a car-dependent city on par with any in the Western World -- a situation fueled by the Emirati desire to travel in air-conditioned luxury as well by the availability of cheap indigenous oil.
Here, in this Abu Dhabi 2121, however, the stranglehold of the car on city life is broken-up with the help of a new socio-architectural setting comprising one or two-story dwellings interconnected with walkways.
The dwellings, partly-inspired by the domestic houses in the Thar Desert of India, are constructed from local sands and muds mixed with native palm-leaves and dried camel dung. This technique makes for buildings that need less energy to construct but that also possess high insulation. The dwellings serve both as family homes and as small businesses -- and their walkways connect the community together whilst providing shade for the pedestrians and gardens below. The noisy dangerous Abu Dhabi inner suburbs of today are thusly converted into relaxed neighborhoods where people can walk conveniently on flat surfaces without the need to compete with or navigate around cars or an obstructive road-scape.
Nowadays, in the early decades of the 21st Century, the Abu Dhabi economy is largely based upon oil. In the future, though, oil reserves will very possibly have drastically declined—perhaps hastening the decline of the private automobile as well. On this post-‘Peak Oil’ Age, crude oil will probably only be available for the production of a few essential plastic goods and for medicines; not for cars and transport. However, the Abu Dhabi economy can still thrive if the residents there can learn to harness the energy of that other, ever-present, renewable resource that the city enjoys: the desert sunshine.
For the full juicy socio-political context of Abu Dhabi 2121, and a list of references and further reading, consult the 'Abu Dhabi' chapter of the Ecotopia 2121 book.