Atkins designs integrated community for northern Egypt
Located a quick 10-minute drive from Borg El Arab International Airport in northern Egypt is Atkins’ masterplanned Nabta Town, which incorporates a sustainable mixed-use urban development.
The brainchild of Upscale CEO and Chairman Mohammed Khairy, Nabta Town has been designed as an integrated, inclusive and multi-functional community. With several distinct areas providing a variety of services, facilities and functions, the development serves a wide range of residents, employees and visitors. Designed to achieve a LEED neighbourhood rating of gold, Nabta Town’s different districts include University, Cultural, Business, Commercial, Mixed-Use and Family.
“The masterplan offers a highly connected, accessible and legible community development,” said Salim Hussain, principal architect at Atkins Global in Dubai. “Pedestrian movement is prioritised through dedicated pedestrian walkways and cycle routes, which are interconnected and permeate the site. All areas are located within a 150-metre radius of defined open public spaces that are connected by structured pedestrian walkways. Due to this emphasis on pedestrian connectivity, it’s possible to walk from north to south of the development within approximately 15 minutes, which ensures all areas of the community are accessible to everyone.”
The six neighbourhoods allow residents to grow through education and entrepreneurship opportunities. They also provide a draw for residents in the vicinity as well as offering a viable alternative for residents of Alexandria. According to Hussain, Nabta distinguishes itself from the “mono-functional developments that generally categorise development in Egypt.”
“The design theme for the project was to generate unique experiences and spaces that would allow users to find ‘their Nabta’,” added Hussain. “At the same time, principles related to building heights, use of landscaping, courtyards and building materials such as glass block, timber and aluminium gave a common thread to all areas and buildings.”
Another common thread that runs throughout the project is the public realm. It connects and unifies, yet distinguishes the different parts of the project. A limited palette of materials and plants was used across the site, and complemented in the different areas with furniture or colour.
“While the climate in Egypt is not as harsh as the UAE, careful consideration is still required when proposing materials. Aesthetics were matched with robustness and value to establish a feasible palette that would bring harmony across the site,” said Hussain. “To this end the materials chosen included textured and smooth bricks for the university and school.”
Also, the buildings themselves and public art were used as wayfinding devices, with key areas of the plan having landmark buildings. The library, for example, is located at one of the main entry and exit routes for the project, and acts as a wayfinding anchor to the residents.
“It was a daunting task to take something so personal to Khairy and transform thoughts into a concrete masterplan,” said Hussain. “As the project progressed, ideas began to flow and the chemistry between client and architect led to a solution that has exceeded the client’s hopes of what would be achieved.”