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Masdar on hold as Fosters re-plans

Foster + Partners’ Masdar City is being re-designed following a high-level ‘development strategy review’ of the huge £15 billion zero-carbon development in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A source close to the project described the situation as being in ‘meltdown’, adding that the ‘fixed cost for infrastructure [was] prohibitive in current conditions.’

The source claimed that ‘the original project had been engineering and aspiration led, not market led’.

The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar, has put on hold AECOM and Aedas-designed schemes, while Foster + Partners has been sent back to the drawing board to re-work the masterplan for the city, which is expected to take up to four months.

Muir Livingstone, the practice’s lead on the masterplan, confirmed it was looking at phase one in more detail and reconsidering land uses.

He added that, despite changes in the commercial model, ‘as far as we’re concerned, from an architectural point of view, the city remains the same, it captures the same vision and it is the same masterplan’.  

A spokesperson for Masdar confirmed that low-rise residential blocks would replace villas and that commercial plots would be larger – up to 10,000m² instead of 400m² as planned.

Chris Bosse of LAVA Architects, whose design for Masdar City Centre looks set to proceed unchanged, played down the situation. ‘It’s quite common for a masterplan to evolve over time,’ he said.

Last week, Masdar appointed UAE company Aldar to take over as lead developer of the project, the focus of which is the Fosters-designed Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

Ambitious, city-wide plans for an automated ‘pod’ transport system could also be scrapped in favour of the service for at institute alone. The Masdar spokesperson said: ‘We don’t want to lock into one technology today if cheaper more reliable technologies are developed.’

Masdar is designed to be carbon neutral and produce no waste to landfill. Original schemes included the Aedas-designed neighbourhood, AECOM-designed public realm and a Swiss Village, for which eight competition-winning firms will be announced in April.

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