Expert urges GCC countries to scrap the masterplan

An expert speaker at the recent Green Build Congress in Dubai believes that the masterplan is an inappropriate planning model for the GCC.

Andrew Olszewski, AO Director, International Urban Systems, gave a keynote speech entitled: Transforming urban environments to create economically successful, liveable, sustainable communities.

He commented: “In this region, everything is masterplanned. It’s an extremely inflexible model – it’s very time consuming and it creates more problems than it solves.  Authorities like it because it gives the whole picture, but we are working on projects that are constantly evolving.”

Olszewski advocated the use of an urban framework plan as an alternative. “By not defining everything too early gives us a chance to understand the project. It is a way of defining the vision without limited outcomes, ensuring synergy between specific projects and urban systems.”

The speaker also called for a greater number of quality public spaces in the Middle East. He added: “We often hear that the Middle East is too hot for public spaces. However, Toronto has a tremendous amount of pedestrian spaces, but for six months of the year it is too cold.

“In front of Dubai Mall, you see Emiratis walking by the Dubai fountain. This is exactly how [public spaces] should be done.”

Olszewski believes that the traditional Arabian architecture offered true sustainability. “The heritage buildings we have here are absolutely first class. How did we lose it in one generation? Now we are just looking at the Western suburban model.”

The speaker cited Melbourne as a shining case study of a sustainable, cultural city. “It is critical to have an example that is live and which is happening. Melbourne is one of the best examples where a city has come from very poor economic and environmental conditions to become a global winner.

“From a post-industrial city it has become one of the most advanced cities of culture that people want to live in. In 2011 it was deemed to be the most liveable city in the world.”