Abu Dhabi Open Space in the Rear View: the Public Realm Moving Forward

Christopher Fannin
Managing Director
INSITE Landscape Architects, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi shares with many cities in the region an original urban planning morphology that has enabled the dominance of the car over the pedestrian. The city’s careful layout provided for equitable development, but has subsequently made for challenging connectivity due to its setting out, which is only exacerbated by the often harsh climate. Transformation of the public realm will continue organically, particularly as new developments are constructed, but there is plenty of room to intervene throughout the existing fabric of the city. How can the spaces both within the city proper, as well as the periphery, be re-conceived to facilitate physical and social links?

This presentation examines the public realm of Abu Dhabi. There is a definitive need to create a more cohesive public realm that can augment the improvements that have already been undertaken here. Given its unlimited potential, the public realm must become the connective tissue of the city and a more productive component of the city socially, economically and ecologically. Through charting some of the key developments in public realm within Abu Dhabi, and then focusing on a few examples of contemporary interventions, the presentation connects the historical and contemporary. As the public realm becomes a better-understood and more-integrated part of Abu Dhabi, a new language of design needs to accompany this transformation that is recognizable, endemic and modern.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation