With a multi-lane highway bisecting the entire city, Dubai residents are much better off investing in a set of wheels than a pair of walking boots. Although pedestrian-friendly areas exist – such as JBR Walk, Downtown Dubai and the older neighbourhoods surrounding the creek – it is either dangerous or inconvenient to traverse most districts on foot, in contrast to many Western cities.
The populations’ penchant for the automobile and the scorching summer months are often cited as reasons for the emirate’s urban makeup.
Dubai’s lack of pedestrian facilities came under scrutiny in two recent industry talks, firstly November’s Green Build Congress, which ran alongside The Big 5 show.
Keynote speaker Andrew Olszewski, AO Director, International Urban Systems, gave a speech entitled ‘Transforming urban environments to create economically successful, liveable, sustainable communities.’
Olszewski asserted that Downtown Dubai has shown that it’s possible to create a successful pedestrian environment. “In front of Dubai Mall, you see Emiratis walking by the Dubai Fountain. This is exactly how public spaces should be done.”
The urban spaces between Dubai’s landmarks were analysed in detail at the recent Design Road workshops, organised by Creative Dialogue Association, and held in Al Quoz.
An urban design workshop, run by Christoph Leuder – principal lecturer in architecture and urban design at Kingston University London – observed an area around Baniyas Square, near the creek, at different times of the day.
Leuder explained: “We’ve been going to the site and observing it during busy hours when the shops are open, and during quiet times. We looked at the site through two different viewpoints. One considered the dimensions and proportions of the enclosure – essentially public space surrounded by private buildings – and compared it to London.
“We also used a second set of parameters which would be termed ‘intensive’ – these included temperature, light, frequency of traffic and more. We’re curious about how connective tissue can be strengthened.”
Leuder believes that the landmark buildings are successful, but that the connecting spaces need to be more pedestrian-friendly. “The next stage of development might need to focus on making those spaces more connective and friendly to the pedestrian, with more awareness of what we call intensive parameters,” he added.