The future of the “city of the future”

Street Masdar City, Abu Dhabi; Alphabet and Business Mobility

A zero-emissions city in the middle of the desert. Impossible, right? Well, back in 2008 Masdar City, an aspirational project on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, set out to prove it wasn’t. Claiming to be “the world’s most sustainable eco-neighbourhood”, the project aimed to realise a vision of eco-conscious urban living for the rest of the world to follow. Not as easy as it sounds, it turns out.

Ups and downs

After the initial media hoopla died down, there were numerous setbacks and global critics marched on in. Last September, one sceptical visitor to the grounds reported empty buildings and deserted streets.

Now, however, there appears to be a light at the end of the long dark tunnel after IRENA recently opened its headquarters in Masdar City and an innovative pilot project recently broke ground there. The big question on everyone’s minds: Can Masdar City ever become an exemplary city of the future?

The outlook: unknown

The question is not an easy one to answer. Despite all the buzzwords that seem to represent good intentions, it’s difficult to get behind the project. Why? It’s hard to make a modern lifestyle, with high standards for technology and comfort, an eco-friendly one in the desert. Yes, there’s plenty of energy to win from the sun, but even the solar panels on the roof need special cleaning and care because of the abrasiveness of the sand.

Also, it’s unclear who actually stands to profit from Masdar City: the environment, or the investors with financial stakes and companies seeking positive press. To sum it up, the project lacks transparency and authenticity. Perhaps one day there will be a sustainable city of the future in the desert, but the jury is still out on whether or not that day has come with Masdar City.

What do you think about the future of Masdar City?

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