Delegates experienced the vibrant city of Abu Dhabi on Days 5 and 6 of the conference, where they engaged in a rich 1.5-day program that explored the city’s premier developments, infrastructure hubs, and cultural sites. This regional city program incorporated three half-day segments that focused on unique themes, each progressing from a presentation format to expansive tours, site visits, and technical demonstrations. The programs were led by CTBUH experts and took place at prominent venues in Abu Dhabi. The presentation program and delegate accommodations were at the five-star Jumeirah Hotel at Etihad Towers, a mixed-use development located on the prestigious coastline of Khalidyah, comprising five gently curving towers, ranging from 49 to 76 stories above a five-level podium.

As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and the country’s second-most populous city, Abu Dhabi has emerged as a major urban focal point in the Middle East, rising prominently on a collection of islands and along the mainland near the Persian Gulf. What was once a comparatively small town in the early 1960s has rapidly expanded – both horizontally and vertically – into a modern, advanced metropolis known for its commercial, cultural, and industrial operations. A wholly distinct entity, it is in many ways the counter-node to Dubai in the Emirates, in the same sense that each of these cities is itself composed of multiple “polycenters.” The polycentric growth has been accompanied by a concerted effort to forge a local identity. The city’s recent skyscrapers reflect the marriage of Arab architectural traditions and local imperatives of sustainability with international preferences. Projects such as Al Bahar Towers feature innovative active and passive solar mitigation strategies, and employ numerous green technologies. Meanwhile, entire urban districts are being established that present new models for urban development in the Middle East. Masdar City, for example, has become a real-time testing ground for net-zero technology at the neighborhood scale and the incorporation of autonomous vehicles for personal transit. With a youthful population and committed policies toward technological advancement and diversification away from fossil-fuel revenue, Abu Dhabi is experiencing a quantum leap into the future.

CTBUH Chairman Steve Watts, Partner, alinea Consulting, addresses attendees of the CTBUH 2018 Middle East Conference on the first day of the Abu Dhabi regional program.

Maan Al Awlaqi, Executive Director, Aldar Properties, delivers the presentation “Island Urbanism: Creating Destinations.”
The expert panelists assembled to discuss “Abu Dhabi & Urban Polycentricity.” From left to right: Maan Al Awlaqi, Executive Director, Aldar Properties; Kevin Ryan, COO, Gulf Related; Nasser Turk, Regional Manager, Middle East & Africa, WATG; Karl Fender, Director, Fender Katsalidis Architects.
Abdulla Balalaa, Director of Real Estate Investment & Design, Masdar, gives a presentation entitled “Masdar City: An Update on Achieving Urban Carbon Neutrality.”

Kevin Ryan, COO, Gulf Related, talks about how Al Maryah island’s burgeoning role as a central business district has catalyzed continued growth in Abu Dhabi.

CTBUH Chief Executive Officer Antony Wood chairs the session “Abu Dhabi Urbanism: An Overview.”

Temoor Ahmad, Associate Principal, Grimshaw Architects, asks a question during a panel discussion at the Abu Dhabi regional program.

Kevin Ryan, COO, Gulf Related, shakes hands with Nasser Turk, Regional Manager, Middle East & Africa, WATG, after participating in an engaging expert panel on polycentrism in Abu Dhabi.

Karl Fender, Director, Fender Katsalidis Architects, shares his insight during the panel discussion “Abu Dhabi & Urban Polycentricity.”
Delegates arrive at the Louvre Abu Dhabi for the “Culture at the Megascale” Off-Site Program, kindly hosted by Louvre Abu Dhabi and sponsored by BuroHappold Engineering.
“Culture at the Megascale” Off-Site Program attendees gather in the Louvre Abu Dhabi to hear presentations centered around engineering the largest art museum on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which calls itself “A Museum City in the Sea”, is comprised of 55 detached buildings and is accessible by both land and sea.
Attendees of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Off-Site Program admire the way the dome’s tessellating structure beams light into the structure’s interior.

Not only did delegates have an opportunity to study the architectural design of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, they got to learn about the beautiful art exhibited in the space, as well.

Attendees head to the upper floors of the Sky Tower to experience a spectacular view of the Gate Shams Abu Dhabi.

A view of The Gate Shams Abu Dhabi, a three-tower residential complex linked by an arcing skybridge, from Sky Tower, the venue for the Abu Dhabi Off-Site “Creating a New Urban Gateway.”

Beshoy Girgis, Vice President Development, Aldar Properties, delivers the presentation “High-Rise: Real Estate Developer Perspective.”
Delegates discuss lessons learned from the development, design and management teams of the 135-hectare Shams Abu Dhabi mixed-use project. 
Attendees and presenters of the Abu Dhabi Off-Site “Creating a New Urban Gateway” at Sky Tower gather for a group photo after the session concludes.

Attendees of the Abu Dhabi Off-Site programs got an in-depth look at some of Abu Dhabi’s most iconic buildings through models and diagrams in addition to site tours.

An exterior shot of Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, which delegates toured as part of the Abu Dhabi Off-Site Program “Financial Free Zone as Polycenter.”
Many delegates headed to Masdar City to visit the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA), the first building to receive the highest sustainability rating in the UAE. This program, titled “High-Performance Buildings Taking Center Stage,” was kindly hosted and organized by Masdar.
During the tour of Masdar City, delegates pass under the roof of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which is made of 252 façade casements, that open and close to provide the building with natural ventilation.
Attendees of the “High-Performance Buildings Taking Center Stage” program traveled in style with Masdar City’s driverless personal rapid transit system.

Delegates toured the beautiful and sustainable Masdar City at the start of the second day of the Abu Dhabi Program, which featured off-site tours, presentations and discussions at various prominent developments around the emirate.

Delegates stop to view a scale model of Masdar City and learn about the city’s sustainable master plan.
Hamed Vahidi, CEO, PS-Co., chairs the session “Middle East Cities: Placemaking.”
Christopher Fannin, Managing Director, INSITE Landscape Architects, provides his perspective on crafting Abu Dhabi’s open space.
Temoor Ahmad, Associate Principal, Grimshaw Architects, shares his thoughts during a core session of the two-day Abu Dhabi regional program.

Mohamed Al-Dah, Director, Webb Yates and Esther Engineers, describes the challenges of placemaking in Abu Dhabi.

A delegate looks ahead to the rest of the Abu Dhabi regional program during a session on placemaking in the middle east.

Delegates took advantage of the opportunity to question the presenters in “Middle East Cities: Placemaking," part of the Abu Dhabi Program.

Presenters and Chair from Session 3: “Middle East Cities: Placemaking” from left to right: Christopher Fannin, Managing Director, INSITE Landscape Architects; Session Chair Hamed Vahidi, CEO, PS-Co.; Mohamed Al-Dah, Director, Webb Yates and Esther Engineers; Nasser Turk, Regional Manager Middle East & Africa, WATG.

CTBUH Canada Chapter Secretary Mark Garland, President, LCL Builds, asks a question during the final session of the Abu Dhabi Program, “Cities 2050: Where Will We Be?”

Joseph Burns, Managing Principal, Thornton Tomasetti, shares his thoughts on how cities will change by in the next thirty years during the Abu Dhabi regional program.

Attendees of day two of the Abu Dhabi regional program listen intently to colleagues as they talk about placemaking and the future of urban living.
Craig Plumb, Head of Research, JLL, offers the property agent’s perspective on the question “Cities 2050: Where Will We Be?”

Eric Parry, Founder and Principal, Eric Parry Architects, posits a question to the panelists as he chairs the session “Cities 2050: Where Will We Be?”

The “Cities 2050: Where Will We Be?” panel closed out the 2018 Conference with insights about the near future. From left to right: CTBUH Chief Executive Officer Antony Wood; Eric Parry, Founder and Principal, Eric Parry Architects; Craig Plumb, Head of Research, JLL; Joseph Burns, Managing Principal, Thornton Tomasetti; Barry Lee, Director of Design, DBI.

Delegates share their thoughts at the Abu Dhabi regional program about the engaging round of presentations that had taken place throughout the day.
Attendees gather to trade observations during the Abu Dhabi Off-Site Program at Global Market Square.

Wednesday 24 October

9:00AM – 12:00 PM Delegates traveled by coach with CTBUH from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (1.5 hours), check-in to hotel
12:30 – 1:30 PM Registration & Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 PM

Session 1 – Abu Dhabi Urbanism: An Overview

As the national capital of the United Arab Emirates and a major headquarters for the global energy industry, Abu Dhabi has a unique role to play in the region and a unique identity. This session explored the plans of a city that is determined to enhance its role as a global tourist destination, trading hub, and a center of the conversation about the future of energy. Presentations detailed the effect this ambition has had, and will have, on the skyline and the rest of the built environment.
3:00 – 3:30 PM Coffee Break

3:30 – 4:45 PM

Session 2 – Abu Dhabi & Urban Polycentricity

Continuing the discussion from Plenary 2 in Dubai, this panel discussion applied the question of urban polycentricity to Abu Dhabi. Composed of numerous islands, the expanding city now faces the challenge of how to develop them coherently and sustainably, striking the right balance between skyline dynamism and community-building; international flair and local vernacular; human amenities and natural splendor. As a polycentric city, and as a critical node itself in the urbanized Emirati coast and in the global tourism and logistics network, Abu Dhabi is a unique laboratory for discussion of this emerging development trend.
5:30 – 7:30 PM Networking Reception

Thursday 25 October

8:30AM – 12:00 PM

Off-Site Programs

Abu Dhabi Global Market Square Etihad Tower Complex IRENA Headquarters - Masdar City
Louvre Abu Dhabi Sky Tower - Gate Shams Abu Dhabi
12:30 – 1:30 PM Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 PM

Session 3 – Middle East Cities: Placemaking

One of the great challenges for fast-growing global cities is the question of how a distinctive identity can be forged that will be meaningful to locals and representative of the city’s unique role on the global stage. The burgeoning cities of the Middle East have grappled with this concern in intriguing ways, using their deep resources and enviable geographic positions to transform from modest settlements to great metropolises in the desert, becoming places that are both distinct and eminently habitable. This session explored several critical place-making projects that have helped sculpt contemporary Middle Eastern metropolises.
3:00 – 3:30 PM Coffee Break

3:30 – 5:00 PM

Session 4 – Cities 2050: Where Will We Be?

According to recent data from the United Nations, the world will see its collective urban population increase by nearly 2.5 billion people by 2050, with close to 90% of this growth taking place in Asia and Africa. During that time, many regions will face the continued challenges of economic instability, lagging infrastructure, and environmental degradation. Building on the topic of the third plenary session in Dubai, entitled “50 Forward, 50 Back”, this panel discussion considered how cities of the future must adapt to face these and other challenges, with a view to the role that tall buildings and emerging technologies will play in that effort.
View Presentation
5:00 PM Delegates Depart