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As Abu Dhabi's Plan 2030 begins to take shape, there is an increasing focus on the development of the public realm. Instead of focusing on iconic buildings, Abu Dhabi is putting its attention on the creation of attractive outdoor areas that can be enjoyed by pedestrians.
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Masterplanned by design firm KEO, Emerald Gateway was created to provide a dramatic, green entrance to Abu Dhabi, transforming the dusty highway that links Abu Dhabi International Airport to the island capital city into an impressive spectacle in its own right.
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Perhaps the most vivid manifestation of Emerald Gateway will be the sculpture at the beginning of the Mussaffah Bridge leading into Abu Dhabi. The design of the sculpture is based on a falcon's wings, one of the national symbols of the UAE.
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The relatively narrow space of the site present problems for the designers. The basic site is three kilometres in length but just 500 metres in width, which placed limitations in supporting the dual requirements of the site.
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As well as being a 10-lane highway leading in to Abu Dhabi, however, the site will also be a residential location with homes for up to 50,000 people, as well as retail and leisure facilities.
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Isolating the residential area from the noise of passing traffic was a particular headache for designers. They got round the problem by including berms, landscaped sandbanks that absorb noise and help conceal the road from the pedestrian perspective.
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To make the design job more difficult, KEO needed to maximise as much as possible the ‘walkability' of the space, in line with the Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 to encourage more areas for pedestrians, and to make the area surrounding the towers a pleasant place to live.
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As its name suggests, a key feature of Emerald Gateway was that it had to be a green development, not just visually but also as a sustainable project. Reconciling these two disparate goals can sometimes cause conflicts, since green plants tend to call for large amounts of water - which isn't necessarily sustainable.\n
KEO took carefully studied the different perspectives of the sites' two users - a resident walking behind the towers in the landscaped areas will have a very different perspective of what appears green to someone driving through the site at 120km/hour.
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Client: Abu Dhabi Municipality\n
Masterplanning, landscape and architectural design: KEO\n
Transportation engineering and traffic studies: KEO\n
Program management: KEO\n
Landscape consultants: Carol R Johnson Associates\n
Water feature consultant: Crystal Fountains\n
Lighting consultants: LAM Partners\n
Design guidelines consultants: Okrent Associates\n
Wing structure consultants: Buro Happold\n
Project cost: $2.2 billion\n
Project status detailed design: Estimated start on construction end 2008\n
Project completion: 2012