Wednesday, February 6

World's first zero-carbon carless city

While I'm on the topic of carless cities, it's worth mentioning that the Gulf city of Abu Dhabi will break ground this Saturday on an ambitious new master-planned city, Masdar City. The goals are pretty impressive: zero carbon output, entirely run off of renewable resources, all waste recycled, and no cars. And its slated to eventually have 50,000 people live and work there - not just some desert eco-commune. The plans by Foster + Partners combine some medieval elements, such as a wall and narrow pedestrian alleys, with cutting edge solar and wind -powered technology. Promotional video here, and another on the Masdar Initiative here.

President Bush's response to seeing the project was, "Amazing, isn't it? This country has gotten its wealth from the ground and is now reinvesting in alternative forms of energy." This prompts the secondary observation: hmm ... a country that has about as much at stake in the continuation of the oil economy as anyone is hedging their bets and investing elsewhere. I wonder if they know something we don't.

Although I don't want to be a naysayer, part of me wants to hold the applause until the first residents move in about a year from now and the city begins to live up to its ideals. In some ways, the Green race is reminiscent of the Space race or the Arms race, the world's powers scrambling for pride of place in being the first to do something. But building a city is not like going to the moon. It takes time to grow one organically as the community begins to settle into its built environment, and this dynamic process does not always yield the preconceived results. Well, at least it's a more worthy target than adding a few hundred feet to the tallest skyscraper record.

1 comment:

J.W. said...

absolutely right about cities needing to grow organically. a good example is in austin around the university, where the streets have been narrowed to pre-war dimesnions and lots of mixed use luxury condos have been built. good city planning ideas, but it all looks and feels a bit artificial. we'll have to see if the plan will ultimately be successful.