A Sustainable Oasis in the Arabian Desert

When esteemed architecture firm Foster + Partners first unveiled its plans for Masdar, “the world’s first zero-carbon city” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, it was dismissed by many as gimmicky, a Disneyland-ish attempt at sustainable planning.

Well, the first phase of the Masdar development is complete, and the design's technical brilliance is dispelling those early critiques. Blending high-tech design and ancient construction practices, the Masdar plans include an underground electric car network, hollow "wind towers" that cool the air at street level, and a 54-acre field of solar panels that meet 90% of the community's energy needs.

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourroussoff paid a visit to Masdar to check it out. While effusive about the technological genius of the design, he is critical of its exclusionary, "gated community mentality."

"Its utopian purity, and its isolation from the life of the real city next door, are grounded in the belief — accepted by most people today, it seems — that the only way to create a truly harmonious community, green or otherwise, is to cut it off from the world at large."

Read Ourroussoff's piece here and check out a slide show of the development here.

Photo: Duncan Chard/The New York Times

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