‘We need to stitch the different neighbourhoods together’ says Dubai architect Joe Tabet

According to UAE-based architects and designers, masterplanning in the region now needs to focus on connectivity between the various pods of development.

“It’s time to stop dividing Dubai into big pieces,” said Joe Tabet, managing director at JT+Partners. “You have large highways that are slicing the emirate into different parts, and what’s been working for Dubai for the last 30 or 40 years was great, but we need to adapt. It put Dubai on the international map – no one can deny it – but now we need to take a step back and relax, and figure out how to move forward. We need to stitch the different neighbourhoods together.”

Architects in the UAE are of a similar mindset – as many agree that there is a sense of separation between communities and buildings in the UAE.

Without a major planning council, developments in the country have continued to happen in isolation from each other, without much thought given to linking them together. Because growth has happened rapidly, architects and developers should now consider moving forward an opportunity to create a more hospitable and united environment.

“What’s lacking across the Middle East are walkable cities,” said Firas Hnoosh, principal and design director of architecture of the Dubai Studio at Perkins+Will.

“If you look at Dubai specifically, you have to drive between the different areas and even within them. This is very different from other parts of the world. Take Copenhagen as an example – it’s an amazing place because they’ve moved cars out of the centre of the city and created walkable districts. The municipality actually ensures that every kid can walk safely from school to home without the danger of vehicles. Even the way buildings are designed, their lobbies are open to the streets. So when you design a city that’s reliable on cars, it changes everything,” Hnoosh said.

According to Tabet, developers in the UAE are on board with a vision that unites the different communities. Steven Velegrinis, associate principal at Perkins+Will, noted that each of the emirates are implementing or discussing the implementation of bigger urban planning councils, which would operate as governmental bodies that maintain allegiance to a bigger vision for the country’s masterplanning moving forward.

“The challenge right now is that we’re all designing in isolation,” said Velegrinis. “And we’re doing it at such a fast pace and with little oversight. That’s how you get things like poor connections between the areas. There isn’t time to coordinate and there aren’t larger bodies yet that look at the overall vision. But I think we’ll see the formation of these urban planning bodies in the next five years.”

“It’s about going from macro to micro,” said Tabet. “It will all come together. What’s going to happen in the next few decades will be very interesting, and we’ll all have to work closely together.”

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