Urban development in the Middle East has been growing at an incredibly fast pace. The Urban Design Journal describes that the landscape of countries such as United Arab Emirates and Qatar offer great riches not just economically but socially, geographically and climatically. Such favourable qualities have led to many international businesses moving their operations to the region, helping to add to the vast expansion of its cities.

The Landscape Institute Journal recently stated that in most cases, cities will grow organically and part of this process is the development of a usable public realm. However in the case of the Middle East, cities have spread in very little time. The main objective has been to build as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Airports, highways and buildings stand together to create impressive skylines. What were previously small fishing villages in areas such as Dubai and Qatar have been transformed into vibrant cities, with iconic buildings that are recognised for their architectural significance worldwide.

Sustainable development

Often such a fast rate of infrastructure creation can lead to gaps being left in the landscape. In its article, the Landscape Institute Journal draws attention to the small amount of public realm outside of large developments, hotels and theme parks, often not suitable as walkable open spaces. Many residents are completely dependent on vehicle transport.

In order to reverse this trend and create more outside areas for public use, several new projects have been introduced. It is hoped that new developments will be much more sustainable and provide the public realm and open spaces that are urgently required in these countries. Some recent projects, such as the innovative City Walk outdoor development in Dubai, are great examples of how the creation of walkable destinations can benefit both locals and tourist. Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi, a 9 billion-dirham project is underway that will create nine new parks, while Dubai has launched a series of initiatives focused on improving public realm.

All eyes on Qatar

At the forefront of public realm development in the Middle East is Qatar. Set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the entire country is currently undergoing major works to ensure it is ready to stage the event in six years. With most of the activity taking place in capital city Doha, multiple projects are underway in the area. So what effect does an event like this have on the public realm?

When staging a major sporting tournament like the World Cup, the construction of additional stadiums to hold the games is not enough. New parks are needed to show events to those without tickets, sufficient pedestrian routes are required, as well as sustainable transport options. Pedestrianised areas are also essential to provide access to event areas as well as amenities throughout the city. With the world’s attention focused on Qatar for the next few years, it is hoped that the country can lead the way for sustainable and usable public realm development in the Middle East.

On 24-25 October, Kinley will join the Future Landscape and Public Realm conference in Qatar. The event will focus on some of the projects currently shaping the landscape of the Middle East with industry professionals and government officials attending from across the world. To find out more, please click here.

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