Dubai based X-Architects recently unveiled the Urban Oasis, their latest sustainable master plan for Al Ain. The 12-hectare urban development was conceived as a “micro-specific, compact, and passive sustainable urban oasis.” Inspired by the existing natural environment and the traditional dense urban fabric of Islamic cities, the master plan develops an “environmental synergy between landscape and urbanity.”
“Carved out of a site that was formerly a park, the new development brings this latent oasis condition to the fore through the way the natural environmental condition is woven together with the dense urban fabric,” explained the architects.
The new master plan is comprised of a highly refined mixed-use program organized into four clusters. The placement of the clusters creates a “porous urban infrastructure that encourages pedestrians to circulate and filter through its intimate and public spaces”. The master plan favors pedestrian-friendly spaces as cars are limited to three drop off areas and the parking is located on a subterranean level to eliminate pollution and congestion within the immediate areas. A spa and a wedding hotel, a central plaza with a mosque, a cultural center with gallery space and library, and a sports/daycare center, are placed through the site to build upon the oasis idea and generate a vibrant ‘micro-public realm’.
The design strategy combines the modern sophistication of contemporary materials with ancient processes. The old and the new ways compliment one another while developing innovate methods to create a sustainable environment. For instance, structural metallic mesh covers the facade and prevents solar glare, while ancient water methods create a cooling system. ”These age-old passive sustainable strategies-which had been highly developed in traditional Middle Eastern cities and forts-are simple, energy-efficient ways to combat the harsh desert condition without excessive technological aids,” stated the architects.
In fact, Estidama, the government body in charge of developing the sustainability code for the UAE, has specifically chosen this master plan as its pilot project for 2009. Estidama was impressed with the architects’ resourceful use of energy and precious water, but also by its ”respect for the natural conditions of the site and creating a ‘livable city’ in terms of quality of life.”
The project is scheduled to begin construction later this year.
All images courtesy of the studio. To see another project featured earlier on by AD about X-Architects: Houseboat.
Partners-in-charge: Ahmed Al-Ali, Farid Esmaeil
Design Team: Mathan Ramaiah, Luca Vigliero, Sven Van Loon, Francesco Moncada, Miguel Faria, Dario Cavallaro, Lidia Barbiero.
Buro Happold (London/Dubai)
Al Qudra Real Estate