[the eco-city Masdar, as projected by Lord Foster. Image from Building Design]

–The world’s first sustainable city is on its way!— Lord Foster, architect/Brit/Lord proclaims. And from what the Guardian here tells us, this may not be far from the truth at all. A city powered in its entirety by the sun.

In short, the plans for ‘Masdar’ (Arabic for ‘the source’), revealed late last month, are as follows: a solar power station is to be built in the heart of the heart of the desert in the United Arab Emirates and this station will power the entire construction of the city, a city to house 50,000 people, a city without cars and yet with 3 different levels of potential transport, one for a light-rail, a 2nd for pedestrians and a 3rd for what the Guardian refers to as “personalised transport pods”, a kind of driverless taxi. The roads will be slender and short, the buildings a maximum of 5 stories high and potentially 80% of the roofspace will be used to generate solar power. This all in what is possibly one of the harshest environments on the face of the earth.

[the future! as projected by fosterandpartners.com]


Now this reminds me of two things. The first can be found here and is a plan developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation to build solar energy plants across North Africa:

More than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union member nations…

On top of this, the superheated steam (superheated by the Sun!), after driving turbines to generate the electricity, would be used to boil sea water (in effect, a desalination plant), the fresh water vapour of which could be used to give drinking water to African nations in dire need of it. In the end,

The Desertec project envisages a ring of a thousand of these stations being built along the coast of northern Africa and round into the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East.

The plans for Masdar also remind me of Dubai The World, the man-made islands which themselves form an atlas of this our very globe:

[If you haven’t seen this before, yes, people have actually done this.]


Masdar is a phenomenal idea and could well set a precedent for ways in which climate change can and should be battled. But it also strikes me as yet another way way for the United Arab Emirates to try and one-up their counterparts in Dubai, both places striving to have the most amazing cities in the Gulf. It is, however, far more important than Dubai The World which strikes me as an exercise in supreme oil-money-laden idiocy. They, Dubai The World, tell us, tell you, tell me, in hope of increasing tourism in the self-proclaimed ‘desert’s most exciting city’:

300 islands. 386 million tonnes of rock. 232 kilometres of new coastline. 27 km-long breakwater. Like nothing else. Found nowhere else. Epic.