What happened to Abu Dhabi’s urbanism? The question of regional integration

Khaled Alawadi, Ouafa Benkraouda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Neighbourhoods designed for Emirati citizens form more than 50% of Abu Dhabi’s urbanized land. As a result of planning strategies that neglect regionalism, these percentages are likely to grow in an unsustainable manner. This study traces these neighbourhoods’ morphological evolution towards the goal of identifying urban attributes that encourage cohesive growth. The analysis identifies three periods in Abu Dhabi’s neighbourhood morphology: the Inception Period (1967–1975), characterized by diversity, close-knit neighbourhoods, environmentally sensitive planning and integration with adjacent neighbourhoods and the city fabric; the Dispersion Period (1975–2007), characterized by fragmentation, massive expansion, parcel inflation and restricted integration with existing fabrics; and the Redemption Period (2007–present), characterized by nostalgic historicism, densification, parcel deflation and sparse regional integration. Neighbourhood typologies developed after the 1980s failed to conceive of physical planning at different scales. This failure led to a lack of environmental stewardship in efforts to meet citizens’ housing needs. Future development must take into account both cultural affinities and environmental effects and create effective compromises between these two priorities. Instead of relying on foreign experts, Abu Dhabi must involve local planners and academics in the construction of a new policy agenda that promotes the integration of different planning scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-394
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Urban Design
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 4 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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