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Masdar Highlights Policy Shift Away From Autopia

Robert Wright describes the policy shift already underway in planning for cities of the future. He reports that "as energy becomes more expensive, cities will have to be much more compact, easier to navigate by bike and on foot."
September 11, 2010, 1pm PDT | George Haugh
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Masdar, a new planned city set at the edge of Abu Dhabi and designed by Foster + Partners will be an example of this new planning method. Tasked with creating a metropolis that would produce neither carbon emissions nor waste, the design team studied how Arabia's centuries-old traditional cities allowed residents to cope with their environment's intense heat without air conditioning or cars.

"The transport systems envisaged for Masdar, as the city will be known, draw as heavily on the past as on the designs of the buildings. The shade provided by its narrow streets and short distances will encourage walking and cycling."

But this policy shift is not universally upheld. Alan Pisarski, author of the long-running Commuting in America series of books, believes that "increasing prosperity and the growing specialization of many jobs will lead commuters to travel still further. And only the car, he argues, will have the range and flexibility necessary."

Andy Southern, managing director for the planning division of Atkins, the design and engineering consultancy, says it will be hard for car-centric cities such as Dubai to move towards more human-scale development. "If you already have a city that has a large sprawl and massive highways built for car dependency and long commuting trips," he says, "it is going to take a long time to change that, not just from a transport point of view but also from an urban form and planning point of view."

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Published on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 in Financial Times
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