The responsibility of masterplanning: how architects are shaping our lives

This month’s special report has given me the opportunity to speak with a number of architects that have extensive experience in masterplanning, from the Middle East to North Africa and beyond. And it seemed, to me, that the main take-aways from all my chats were the importance and power of masterplanning, its need to respond to global challenges and the GCC’s necessary steps forward.

When I spoke with Joe Tabet, from JT+Partners, he emphasised the power architects have when designing masterplans. Much like designing a one-bedroom apartment, masterplanning a city dictates to its residents where they will live, work and play. A city’s masterplan is directly correlated to the residents’ lifestyle, so precautions must be taken and modern requirements must be met.

This brings us to the second point – masterplans need to respond to global challenges. We are no longer living in a world where we can develop in isolation from each other. What affects one country is certainly affecting another, such as climate change. Whether or not you believe in it, it’s an architect’s role to find lasting solutions that respond to the changing conditions of society and the environment.

“Masterplanners are being asked to solve the most complex problems facing humanity – namely climate change,” said Steven Velegrinis, associate principal at Perkins+Will. “There is already a very mature discourse around the idea of urban resilience, sustainability and ecological urbanism and it’s an approach we are promoting through our work. Our multi-disciplinary team is dominated by landscape architects who are really well suited to ecologically focused masterplanning, and we are increasingly seeing it in demand by developers.”

Tabet made similar comments when he reference Venice’s problem with the rising water levels and the architects and municipality’s current responsibility in combating damage to the infrastructure. “The rising sea levels are also affecting a project we’re doing in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We’re designing water bungalows and they’re 3.6 metres above the sea level because in 15 years, the water will rise that much.”
The following pages will expand on these notions more, as well as offer an anaylsis of Dubai’s masterplan and how to move the city forward.

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