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Life beyond oil

Masdar City, where energetic self-sufficiency becomes reality

Building a completely renewable energy based city is a challenge worth mentioning, especially in areas with large oil reserves such as the United Arab Emirates. We are talking about Masdar City, one of the cities of the future that by 2025 will house up to 50 thousand inhabitants on a surface of 640 hectares.

© Foster+Partners

In the desert near Abu Dhabi, which is rich in underground oil reserves, the sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan threw down a challenge in 2006 in order to shake off the energy dependence on fossil fuels, oil and by-products. Thus was created the first city in the world that is completely self-sufficient and lives exclusively thanks to renewable energies (photovoltaic, concentrated solar power, wind energy, recycling of organic waste), with no carbon emission. An act which - by bringing in again the centrality of the Emirates - also appears to be an important marketing operation and much more: a sustainable and repeatable model through the definition of a well-structured territorial and urban system, finding its symbolic expression in the square city and calling up typical forms of the foundation of ancient cities.

© Foster+Partners

Reinterpreted past and openness to future intertwine in a visionary project guided by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company and commissioned to the London firm of Sir Norman Foster & Partners. City core is the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a university pole carried out with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and conceived to foster research in the field of renewable energies. In order to benefit from emerging results - some technologies are still at the experimental stage - such project is flexible and makes of Masdar a laboratory-city. Integrated into an infrastructural territorial system, this city is planned with dense functional compartments connected by a linear park. Fossil fuel traffic is eliminated, while short-distance electric traffic is underground. Skyline is defined by low buildings - whose design also avails itself of traditional building techniques - and by limited-section streets which favour shading. On the outer city boundaries are to be found farms, research centres and power stations. Up to now, just a portion was built, where teachers and researchers from all over the world live.

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Picture credits: ©Clive Drury - Masdar city
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Picture credits: ©Clive Drury - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
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Picture credits: © Foster+Partners