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Oasis Cities

Seventeen kilometres south east of Abu Dhabi is the eco-city of Masdar — planned to be the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city.

The streets are based on ancient methods that allow for natural cooling systems such as short narrow streets to channel wind currents, while the buildings are designed to reduce solar gain, with overhanging terracotta facades. There are no light switches or taps as these utilities are activated by movement sensors. Cars were initially banned with transport to be provided by Personal Rapid Transport Pods but this has since been revised. Private vehicles will still be parked outside the city but public transport will use a mix of electric and clean energy car types.

While it has not quite achieved its stringent environmental goals, its innovative systems and designs have reduced energy usage by 50%. The city receives 30% of its power from 22-hectares of solar panels, the rest made up by photovoltaic plants.

Masdar is designed by UK firm Foster and Partners and built by the Masdar corporation, a subsidiary of the government owned Mubadala Development Company. Phase 1 is nearing completion in 2015, with the final phase reaching completion between 2020-2025. [1] [2]

In Egypt, The Gate Residence is slated for development from 2014-19. Designed by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, it will illustrate his signature “green architecture” principles integrating plant life and hard structure — principles he refers to as “archibiotic” — to create ecologically focused buildings. A series of plant-covered funnel structures channel breezes which when matched with strategic building placement and Passivhaus systems will reduce energy usage by 50%, most of this coming solar panels and wind turbines. [3]

One of Callebaut's completed projects is the 20 storey high Agora Garden in Tapei. Made from recycled or recyclable materials, the residential tower twists like a double helix, creating a series of suspended gardens. [4] 

Moving further into the speculative are the designs by Polish Collective BOMP, recent reciptients of the eVolo Skyscraper 2015 Award. Their proposed design, Essence, is a multi-storey structure than contains 11 different natural environments: “Overlapping landscapes like an ocean, a jungle, a cave, a waterfall… to stimulate a diverse and complex range of sensual experiences — not only visual, but also acoustic, thermal, olfactory, kinesthetic” (BOMP). Here nature is very much contained inside the structure creating an oasis of multiple geographies within the urban environment. [5]


1] Tafline Laylin, “Inhabitat Tours Abu Dhabi’s Energy-Plus Masdar City,” Inhabit, http://inhabitat.com/exclusive-new-photos-plus-energy-masdar-city-in-abu-dhabi/, accessed 14 May 2016

2] Masdar City https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masdar_City, accessed 14 May 2016

3] Vincent Callebaut website, http://vincent.callebaut.org/page1-img-thegate.html, accessed accessed 14 May 2016

4] James Holloway (2013) “DNA-inspired twisting Agora Garden underway in Taipei City,” Gizmag, http://www.gizmag.com/agora-garden-taipei/26715/, accessed 14 May 2016

5] Bomp website http://www.bomp.eu/awards/essence-skyscraper/, accessed 14 May 2016



Welltuned City is a web-adaption of one narrative stream from the larger interactive installation Sounding the Future. © Gail Priest 2014-16