Oman is an Arabian Gulf country, neighboring the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Allies and Morrison, which is a British-based architectural firm, has designed a new city ‘Madinat Al Irfan’ for the Arab country on an area of 624 hectares.
The firm is challenging the ‘identikit urbanism’ through Madinat Al Irfan masterplan. They are aiming to establish “a place that feels as if it has always been there”.
Allies and Morrison won a competition to design the new city in 2014. Madinat Al Irfan will be located around a ‘wadi’ – meaning a desert valley in Arabic- between Oman’s capital, Muscat, and the nearby city, Seeb.
The core of the project will be the ‘wadi’ which will encompass a park of a 108-hectare area, at the heart of the new city. Several bridges will be crossing the ‘wadi’ to link the different districts of Madinat Al Irfan together. The masterplan, which will be executed over the following thirty years, includes a business district, a marketplace ‘souq’, a mosque, and a grid of streets.
Cultural centers and luxurious hotels will be constructed on top of the highlands surrounding the valley, whereas the valley beneath will be housing a university and another marketplace.
Allies and Morrison’s masterplan respects the Omani culture and pays homage to the ancient settlements that were once spread across the country.
“Madinat Al Irfan has given us the opportunity to explore a series of thoughts, ideas and long-held preoccupations on placemaking, but now on a much larger scale – an entire city,” commented Alfredo Caraballo, the chief architect of the project.
“At the core is the aspiration of creating a city that is both connected to its time and place while belonging to a long tradition.”
Green balconies, which will be surrounding the Wadi Park from the south, will be designated for agriculture and recreational purposes. Villages situated south of the project will provide a more serene area to live in, whereas a new government district will be constructed to the west side of the park.
Sustainability was a major concern for the firm and was contemplated at the very first stages of the design. It was manifested in the shaded streets which will encourage people to walk, rather than use their automobiles. Also, the dense layout of the city will decrease the time needed for transport from one district to another and will diminish the carbon footprint.
“The masterplan exemplifies many of the ambitions set out in the New Urban Agenda adopted recently at UN-Habitat III, addressing a range of challenges from housing to happiness, offering a visionary and implementable alternative to the car-dominated, resource-hungry and identikit urbanism of the last three decades,” explained the architectural firm.
Measures were taken into consideration to minimize the new city’s water consumption by incorporating a rainfall management system and utilizing reclaimed water for farming.
In 1984, Bob Allies and Graham Morrison founded the architectural firm ‘Allies and Morrison’. It is regarded as one of the most important firms in Britain, with several offices spread across the country. It is currently undertaking projects like the Brighton College boarding building and Rambert Dance Company studio. The firm is also involved in another masterplan which aims to develop a cultural area at the London 2012 Olympic Park.