Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Once upon a time, innovations in land use came from the United States—the skyscraper, the shopping mall, zoning, the drive-through burger joint. But as United States land use law has discouraged innovation, other countries have taken up the challenge. In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the government is building what is called the world’s first carbon-neutral city: Masdar, with the assistance of designers and firms across the globe. The city will take advantage of abundant sunshine to soak up solar energy, offer free public transportation, provide a system for easy recycling, and supply desalinated water from the Persian Gulf. The plan is for the city to house 50,000 residents within eight years.
Will Masdar become a model for “green” urban design and laws? Can its features be put in place in societies without top-down control? I’m not sure, but I do know that Masdar sounds a lot like the “ideal” cities I used to draw with a pencil when I was 12, as did countless other kids across the world. Perhaps we might be able to agree on “best practices” for urban design before the century is out …