Daniel Weinbach & Partners, Ltd.
Al Shamkha South; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Client: Keo International Consultants
Architect: Keo International Consultants
Category: Planning & Anaylsis

It is common practice in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for vacant land to be distributed by the government to nationals as a means of wealth distribution and to alleviate overcrowding in the city of Abu Dhabi. One such project, Al Shamkha South, was mandated to be a sustainable city containing 10,000 single-family residential plots-totaling the approximate size of the island of Manhattan-distributed across the site. Going beyond the simple application of
this program, the landscape architect and project team pushed the envelope of UAE community planning to put forth a model for a pedestrian-friendly urban experience not currently present in other new Middle Eastern cities.
Employing new urbanist principles, Al Shamkha South is intended to relieve the crowding and provide new housing and a fresh city model for young Emirati families. Residential plots were grouped into seventeen neighborhoods, each including a small neighborhood center of mosques, small retail facilities, and other amenities within walking distance of each plot. Parks of varying sizes are spread throughout the neighborhoods to serve as gathering spaces and stimulate interaction among residents.

Due to the sprawling layout of the city and lack of outdoor amenities, Abu Dhabi, like most cities in the region, is not considerate of the pedestrian. Streets are wide, spare and harsh; treeless environments serve primarily vehicular use. Typical utility layout strategies were re-examined in order to narrow the standard expansive right-of-ways to a pedestrian scale and incorporate street trees. To promote alternative transportation, bike trails encourage connectivity to neighborhood centers and the arterial roadways allow for dedicated bus lanes or light rail.

The human scaled character of Al Shamkha South will be unique from other cities in the region, and the proposed outdoor amenities and pedestrian-friendly routes will change the perception of streets in the UAE as being uninhabitable environments.