Masdar City, Abu Dhabi: Eco-City of the Future
Located in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Masdar City is planned city envisioned as an “arcology”: a self-sufficient, very densely populated habitat in which individual human environmental impact is minimized. A portmanteau of “ecology” and “architecture,” the term was coined and popularized by architect Paolo Soleri. Though he went on to influence generations of architects through his writings, drawings and models, Soleri was only able to partially realize his visions in the experimental town of Arcosanti in Arizona. Masdar City, which began construction in 2006, appears to finally promise the realization of Soleri’s arcology concept, albeit without the architect’s distinct formal treatment. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, the city is being built at a cost of $18 billion by Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the Government of Abu Dhabi. As the world’s most ambitious eco-city, Masdar relies on solar energy provided by a 22-hectare field of 87,777 solar panels and other renewable energy sources. It will hold 40,000 residents in only two square miles and has replaced cars with driverless electric vehicles. Patrick Kingsley adds in Wired that the design of the walls of the buildings has helped reduce demand for air conditioning by 55 percent. In addition, sensors have replaced light switches, cutting electricity consumption by 51 percent, and water usage by 55 percent. The city is designed to be an internationl hub for cleantech companies, and its first tenant, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, has been operating in the city since 2010. As Kingsley notes, “Masdar is slowly helping to change attitudes about renewable energy and climate change in the Gulf and the Maghreb,” and may become the unexpected role model for sustainability in a region long-reliant on its oil reserves.