Abu Dhabi Public Realm Design Manual
The Abu Dhabi Public Realm Design Manual (PRDM) is part of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s (UPC). With the development of the PRDM, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is actively planning for the public realm and building a world-class community.
The manual is an essential planning tool that will help the Emirate achieve its vision for the future. The public realm includes all exterior places, linkages and built form elements that are physically and/or visually accessible regardless of ownership. These elements can include, but are not limited to streets, pedestrian ways, bikeways, bridges, plazas, nodes, squares, transportation hubs, gateways, parks, waterfronts, natural features, view corridors, landmarks and building interfaces.
This manual constitutes one of many related design initiatives in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It shall be used in conjunction with other adopted standards and guidelines as applicable. The PRDM integrates the needs of different agencies and shall be undertaken by multiple professionals, including urban planners and designers, and landscape architects. The PRDM builds on other planning documents in a continued effort to shape the future development of Abu Dhabi. Central to the planning efforts in Abu Dhabi are the 2030 Plans which establish a vision for future development of the Emirate. The 2030 Plans include the Plan Capital 2030, Plan Al Ain 2030, and Plan Al Gharbia. The 2030 Plans regulate the pattern of urban expansion to balance economic, social and environmental priorities in a sustainable manner. The PRDM also maintains the principles of one the fundamental concepts of planning in Abu Dhabi: Estidama which is an initiative to incorporate sustainable principles into every aspect of planning in the Emirate.
The manual will be updated regularly as new data and experience with best practices become available.
To simplify and plan for the Emirate, the public realm is organized into four categories defined by:
Parks; Public spaces with community for recreational use. Parks may include natural areas such as mountain ridges and wadi systems.
Streetscapes; The visual elements of a street including the road, sidewalk, street furniture, trees and open spaces that combine to form the street’s character.
Waterfronts; All land areas along the water’s edge.
Public Places; All open areas within a community visible to the public or for public gathering or assembly.
The public realm in Abu Dhabi expresses traditional Arab culture while serving the diverse, multicultural population. It is a fully accessible and engaging experience that includes diverse public parks and civic spaces; an interconnected system of public walkways, bicycle trails and public transit; a vibrant and active waterfront; and active mixed-use areas that are all enhanced through high-quality architecture, streetscape design and public art. It safe, comfortable and responds to the climate and environment of Abu Dhabi.
Furthering this vision, nine principles expand on how the public realm addresses the following key themes:
Liveability; The public realm is a safe and comfortable space, where diverse activities can be experienced by all, contributing to people’s physical and mental wellness, and providing a high quality of life.
Identity; The public realm will be a unique expression of Arab culture, heritage, values and traditions expressed throughout Abu Dhabi.
Access; The public realm ensures full access to Parks, Streetscapes, Waterfronts and Public Spaces.
Connectivity; The public realm is interconnected and enhances the mobility of people by providing continuous land and water access for pedestrians, cyclists and other modes of transport.
Placemaking & Design Excellence; the public realm is made up pf high-quality, human-scaled and visually interesting places. The public realm includes multi-functional, flexible and climate responsive design solutions using high-quality sustainably sources materials.
Environmental stewardship; The public realm is responsibly designed to achieve water and energy efficiency, and will respect important natural assets and native flora and fauna.
Inclusivity; the public realm will provide a safe and comfortable array of diverse places and activities for all people to enjoy.
Activation; the public realm will immediately be improved by ensuring activities and functions are appropriately integrated and programmed while also defining a clear operations and maintenance programme that ensures continued contribution to the identity of Abu Dhabi.
Shared ownership & implementation; the public realm will be developed through a cooperative effort of government and/or private entities to ensure a high-quality resource that all stakeholders will contribute to and enjoy.
Art Park; areas programmed primarily to display public art for interactive educational and recreational uses. They provide opportunities for artistic expression within the community.
Baraha; Barahaat are spaces between homes that are located in small number of key positions throughout the fareej. There are usually a small number of Barah to create focal points for residents to come and interact with one another, ensure maximum use and provide a focus for a larger number of people. In urban areas these could also be referred to as pocket parks.
Ceremonial Park; are large areas programmed primarily for public assembly and commemoration. They are the focal point of the community and support the identity of the place.
Community Garden; support and encourage local food security and production in local communities. They contribute to community awareness, positive social interaction, community education and the ecological biodiversity in urban areas.
Community Park; range in size and are programmed for passive and active use. They are located near urban and rural areas to support the community environment.
Conservation Park; are areas primarily for the preservation, rehabilitation or creation of natural features or areas. They may be located to surround existing natural features to support environmental preservation.
Desert Park; showcase the unique diversity of the desert climate of the Emirate. Desert Parks also serve to preserve and enhance key natural areas and environments that act as a buffer between the natural desert or cultivated agricultural areas and developed urban and rural settlement areas. They are intended to be low-maintenance and have restricted water requirements.
Family Park; are small areas programmed for active and passive recreation. They are located near residential developments to provide the local population with typical park amenities.
Heritage Park; is primarily for the preservation and enhancement of historic landmarks, sites or places. They surround heritage sites to support the historic and cultural identity of the Emirate.
Linear Parks; are corridors for passive and active recreation. They are located along natural corridors, utility easements and other linear open spaces. They are located throughout the community.
Meyadeen; are the larger neighborhood level gathering spaces that tie together various community uses and are programmed primarily as central meeting areas. They are located as focal points in a traditional neighborhood system or fareej.
Oasis Park; are historic sites for farming. An Oasis Park includes areas that surround the Emirate’s historic oases for the preservation and enhancement of these unique places.
Sports Park; are large areas programmed primarily for sport and active uses. They provide the recreational facilities for a variety of activities and are integral to all communities.
Streetscapes play a central role in the formation of the public realm. They function both as important public space and as the network of pedestrian linkages and crossing points, connecting all public and private space throughout the Emirate. The typology includes;
Ceremonial Route, to link residents and visitors to significant landmarks and serve as a processional space for the ceremonial events.
Gateway, to define major intersections and provide visual identification and sense of arrival
Mushtarak, to offer shared-use streets primarily for pedestrians that can accommodate vehicles at low speeds.
Parking areas, to provide underground, surface, structural and overflow parking systems.
Pedestrian first corridor, to serve as public open space and provide walkable communities.
Pedestrian crossing, to provide safe and convenient pedestrian connections to the surrounding open space network
Scenic Route, to frame views, vistas and scenic resources along corridors recognized for cultural, historic, natural and/or scenic
Sikka, to provide pedestrian access to nearby homes, gathering areas and community facilities.
Themed Corridor, to connects heritage and cultural destinations and provide routes which contain features of a particular theme.
Transit Corridor, to prioritise multimodal transit options over vehicular use.
There are four different Waterfront typologies that provide a variety of waterfront access and recreation opportunities.
Waterfront access, is programmed primarily for passive recreational use and environmental conservation. These areas are located around undeveloped or redeveloped waterfronts to support the natural Abu Dhabi Waterfront.
Preservation area, for the preservation and enhancement of ecologically significant waterfronts. They are located around natural waterfront resources, including mangroves, salt flats, seagrass beds and other natural shorelines to support these environmental features.
Recreation Area, programmed primarily for water or beach-based active and passive recreational uses.
Urban area, are programmed primarily for public access to the waterfront and as waterfront activity centers.
Public places are the most diverse category of the public realm. They define the public space around important destinations and features of the Emirate. Public Spaces are categorized into the public realm hierarchy according to their role and importance as space in the Emirate. The Public Places’ typologies and their purpose include:
Cultural Destination, to enhance the character and scale of the area surrounding a cultural attraction
Heritage feature, to preserve the heritage site and provide authentic interpretive and educational experiences.
Landmark destination, to reflect and enhance the character of the surrounding landmark venue
Mosque, to improve the accessibility and pedestrian character between the street and the mosque.
Plaza, to provide a transitional open space between streets and prominent buildings, such as hotels and government offices.
Souq, to enhance the pedestrian environment around these shopping areas.
The PRDM also includes a detailed list of the plants. Each plant identified for use in the public realm is listed in the matrix which provides the following information: botanical name, common name, locally occurring species, exposure group, irrigation classification, inland suitability, waterfront suitability, and public realm category.
Also it includes the Irrigation Rate matrix for detailed information regarding irrigation of each plant category according to its irrigation classification, maturity and season.
In an interview with Mr. Yousif Al Fahim, Planning Manager, UPC we discuss the Baniyas-South Wathba Revitalisation Master Plan.
Developed by the UPC, in close coordination with Abu Dhabi Municipality (ADM) and key stakeholders, the Baniyas-South Wathba Master Plan covers the areas of Baniyas, South Wathba and Al Nahda, one of the oldest Emirati communities in the UAE. The Master Plan is aligned with the principles of both Vision 2030 and the Capital 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan and aims to revitalise Baniyas-South Wathba to create a sustainable, vibrant and complete community. Currently, 69,000 residents live in Baniyas-South Wathba, with over 7,000 existing homes across an area spanning 6,500 hectares.
Q1) Can you please take us through the Baniyas-South Wathba Revitalisation Master Plan?
· The Baniyas-South Wathba Master Plan covers the areas of Baniyas, South Wathba and Al Nahda, one of the oldest Emirati communities in the UAE.
· The Master Plan, aligned with the principles of both Vision 2030 and the Capital 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan, aims to revitalise Baniyas-South Wathba by creating a sustainable, vibrant and complete community. Currently, 69,000 residents live in Baniyas-South Wathba, with over 7,000 existing homes across an area spanning 6,500 hectares.
Q2) What are the main components of the project? (hierarchy)
· The overarching concept of the Baniyas Revitalisation Master Plan is to focus on creating a sense of community. This will be achieved by developing a hierarchy of district, neighbourhood and local centres to provide services for existing and future residents.
· Integrated community facilities and a range of public spaces will ensure residents have easy access to amenities. The concept of mixed use activity centres plays an important role in the revitalisation strategy. Furthermore, streetscapes throughout the community will be revitalised to provide well-connected, safe and comfortable routes for walking and cycling.
· The community will be serviced internally by public transit along with new regional connections, to facilitate safe and convenient local movement networks and establish the best conditions for economic growth and social inclusion.
Q3) How is the UPC coordinating with its strategic partners such as the Abu Dhabi Municipality to ensure an integrated and sustainable community that will provide the best living conditions for its residents?
· UPC has been working with its key partners, mainly ADM, from the inception of this project to address key themes such as the quality of the public realm, community identity and social cohesion alongside the importance given to the development of infrastructure, as the physical and social challenges of urban growth physical are intertwined.
· This approach is vital to achieving an integrated, long-term strategy to implementing the revitalisation masterplan, ensuring it will help build complete and sustainable communities there.
Q4) How does the Baniyas-South Wathba project align with the overall 2030 Vision?
· Comprising some of the Emirate’s oldest housing communities with their own individual characteristics, the successful integration of these communities of Baniyas-South Wathba with the emerging Metropolitan Area is a key focus of our Revitalisation Master Plan and an important precondition for the successful realisation of Vision 2030.
· The Revitalisation Master Plan forms a key part of Abu Dhabi Government’s ongoing commitment to coordinate and manage urban growth within Abu Dhabi’s Mainland, reflecting the importance of the suburbs as a key area for the city’s Emirati population growth over the next 20 years.
· Baniyas-South Wathba remains one of the largest and most ambitious opportunities for sustainable urban revitalisation in Abu Dhabi, and the UPC is ensuring that the creation of a cohesive urban fabric will provide the opportunity for communities to be transformed into vibrant living areas, with a strong sense of belonging and coherence.
· Besides, the Baniyas-South Wathba Revitalisation Master Plan is designed to contribute to the enhancement of the economy and social environment of the Mainland by promoting a prosperous living environment and increased economic activity. It also demonstrates that existing communities can be effectively revitalised through the implementation of transportation, community facilities and housing options while building on the existing social fabric and infrastructure framework.
· As Emirati housing is part of 2030 Vision, with its overreaching goal to provide future generations of the locals with modern homes, new plots for Emirati housing will be allocated and existing homes will be revitalised to improve the quality of housing to meet the needs of the residents.
· The concept for the new Emirati housing types has been driven by a courtyard lay-out within a traditional ‘fareej’ neighbourhood design concept that is both environmentally and culturally sustainable. This new type of urban fabric provides the community with a new sense of place and restores and promotes the richness of traditional Arab living in a contemporary form.
Q5) Landscaping is an important element in our communities; what is the percentage of green area planned for this particular project?
· The Revitalization Master Plan has established an open space strategy that is divided into 5 categories. The 5 categories or systems include sub-regional open space, district open space, neighbourhood open space, local open space and linear open space.
· The sub-regional open space comprises the existing desert landscapes, which are retained, enhanced and kept free of urban development. District open spaces act as major social and recreational focal points and include facilities such as sporting fields, public space events, and large green open spaces. Neighbourhood open spaces are located in close proximity to Neighbourhood centres and cater for the recreational needs of the residents within the neighbourhood catchment area. Local open spaces have a similar function to neighbourhood open spaces with a less intensive level of programming due to the smaller catchment area. Linear open spaces exist along road rights of way enhancing site legibility and incorporate storm water management measures where possible. Included within these categories are planned green areas. These areas cover around 150 Ha of the project area, or around 2.5% of the total revitalisation area.
Q6) How many parks are included in the public realm?
· A clear hierarchy of parks has been established in the Master Plan. The parks have been divided into District, Neighbourhood and Local Parks ensuring that an appropriate range of facilities are delivered and recreational needs catered for. The Master Plan provides just over 100 parks throughout the revitalisation area across the different park hierarchies and ranging in size from 0.5 Ha to 30 Ha.
Q7) How do these parks comply with the PRDM and Estidama guidelines?
· These parks will help promote more liveable, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing public spaces across the Emirate.
· This is going to be achieved through planning and designing of the public realms by addressing core themes such as liveability, identity, access, connectivity, place-making and design excellence, environmental stewardship, inclusivity, activation, shared ownership and implementation. These principles will ensure that the development of public spaces is in-line with the established vision of raising the profile of Abu Dhabi as a truly sustainable, liveable and accessible Emirate.
· By following this approach, parks will aspire to achieve the overall objectives of PRDM of establishing Abu Dhabi as a world renowned capital that upholds its unique culture, identity and heritage and environment while serving a rapidly-growing and diverse multicultural population with a fully accessible and engaging experience that encompasses diverse public parks and civic spaces.
Q8) Water scarcity is amongst the biggest issues our region is facing today. How does the new revitalization plan fulfill its commitment to water conversation? And what are the new approaches or techniques used to reduce water consumption especially in the irrigation of the landscaped areas.
· The scarcity of water makes it an extremely precious commodity. With this in mind, a multi-layered approach has been adopted within the Master Plan to minimise water demands within the landscape and to make best use of the water that is dedicated to the irrigation of the public realm. This includes limiting high water demand landscapes in the first instance, and where they do occur, locating them only within high usage areas where they will have the most visual impact. Landscapes with lower demands are preferred and these are located throughout the majority of the revitalisation area. Planting selections are particularly important, with a focus on drought resistant species from arid climates and a particular emphasis upon native species.
· Efficient irrigation systems and regimes also contribute significantly to water savings across the revitalisation area. Although the rain is infrequent, runoff is directed into landscape areas wherever possible to provide passive irrigation for landscaped areas.