Abu Dhabi: new urban showcase in the Middle East?
Guided by Vancouver’s Larry Beasley, the oil-rich emirate is using North America’s top urbanists to shape development.
In a still-shaky world economy, one place stands out as an enthusiastic employer of new urbanists and a potential model of how to develop cities. That place is Abu Dhabi, the wealthy emirate that has recently been in the news for bailing out its profligate neighbor, Dubai.
When overextended real estate development in Dubai collapsed late last year, it was Abu Dhabi that came to the rescue with $10 billion. The largest and most petroleum-rich of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has a reputation for prudent government by its royal family. In the past several years, while Dubai was erecting flamboyant towers and building islands arranged like palm trees, Abu Dhabi was searching for a course that would work better in the longer run.
In 2006, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s desire for a more stable and sustainable pattern of development led him to recruit Larry Beasley, longtime co-director of planning for Vancouver, British Columbia, to serve as “special adviser” — in effect, chief planner for the nearly 1-million-population municipality of Abu Dhabi and the 1.6-million-populaton emirate of