Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest of seven emirates in the UAE. It is a city where energy is king. An economy driven by the country’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas have cemented the cities position as the traditional yet evolving hub of the young independent state. However, Abu Dhabi is working to evolve and it holds high ambitions to become a cosmopolitan city that leads the way in multiple markets, from renewable energy to healthcare to digital art.

image courtesy of flickr user Iam_Chihang

Abu Dhabi is a bustling capital, a traditional yet unconventional gem residing on a small island within the Persian Gulf. The recent rapid development of the city has quickly transformed it into a newfound center for art, science, trade and industrial activity.

Urban identity was previously less important for the city, but as Abu Dhabi offers the special combination of authenticity and progress, the city is now praised for its unique urban personality. Often described as a city built on desert and sea, the possibilities of the open landscape emerges as a place for old ways of life with the benefit of 21st century options, nurturing both business and culture.

  • Before 1950

    The ethnically homogeneous culture of Abu Dhabi prior 1950’s gained its initial elevation to economic prominence as result of pearl cultivation.
  • 1950s

    Less than 50 years ago the entire emirate of Abu Dhabi was a near- empty desert populated by Bedouin tribes and small villages.
  • 1958

    In 1958 huge offshore oil reserves were found; Abu Dhabi became the first of the Gulf States to export oil in 1962, earning an estimated US$70million per year.
  • 1962

    The Municipality of Abu Dhabi was established in 1962 as the "Department of Abu Dhabi Municipality and Town Planning, to try to give the basic roles for the city future planning and development.
  • 1966

    H.H.S Zayed, moved from Al Ain to Al Manhal palace and start to lead the city from that time after his brother Sheikh Shakhbut who lived in Al Hosn palace.
  • 1971

    Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan was welcomed as the new state’s first president; the seven emirates became one country.
  • 1980s

    The city started to develop its own planning grid, with intersections that run in perpendicular and parallel directions to the Corniche, green corridors and landscaping began to emerge throughout the city.
  • 1990

    The emergence of the open plan office building and opportunities for leasing office space in designated office buildings.
  • 2003

    The start of construction on the Emirates Palace Hotel is the world's second 7-star hotel.
  • 2007

    UPC was established to plan proper urban and design guidlines to enhance the future city planning; in addition, ADIA tower is built to be one of the Cornishe landmark buildings.
  • 2011

    An increase in the construction of major tower structures along the Corniche District, such as the like Landmark, Central Market development, and Etihad towers.
  • 2012

    The Landmark tower construction was complete; becoming one of the main elements in Abu Dhabi Cornish development in 2012.
  • 2013

    Most of high rise towers construction was complete, as well as Abu Dhabi’s Cornishe landscape development.
  • 2030

    UPC provides a multifaceted initiative in order to produce an Urban Structure Frame- work Plan for the evolution of the city of Abu Dhabi.

Plans for the future of Abu Dhabi are still strongly influenced by the energy sector.

This however, does not mean that the desire to expand on governmental, institutional and service bodies is any less prominent. On the contrary, the demand for new office space to house these emerging sectors is rapidly increasing.

Tall buildings dominate the landscape of the city. Some of the largest of these developments include the 381m World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, the 342m ADNOC Headquarters, and the 324m The Landmark. As of 2014, Abu Dhabi have as many as forty skyscrapers ranging in height from 105m to 381m.


Whatever business the city might contain, Abu Dhabi’s population is a workforce relying on the automobile as the primary mode of transport. City planners have accepted this issue as a major roadblock to the making the city a more ecologically sustainable environment, and early plans to remediating this issue are underway. With an expected urban population of three million people in 2030, a multi-layered transportation network connecting the downtown to the rapidly developing islands is desperately needed.


Beyond the open city of sea and sand,

the plan for Abu Dhabi in 2030 has focused on accommodating new workforces to foster a more economically sustainable environment. Tough expectations are placed on conservation as well as respecting natural and cultural resources. With these challenges in mind, Abu Dhabi has a unique opportunity to wisely develop its urban core and continue to drive both cosmopolitan and cultural progress.

× Gensler – Abu Dhabi:

Firas Hnoosh
Islam Labana
Bissan Salloum
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