Under The Patronage of His Excellency Mr. Majid Abdullah Al-Hogail The Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing.


9 - 11 September 2024

Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center

With the rise of urban planning strategies, it has become clear that tomorrow’s metropolises are green, circular, and resourceful

For most of human history, cities used to grow by accident. Securing a suitable location was usually a no-brainer – someplace defensible, on a hill or on an island, perhaps somewhere with an abundance of resources, but what happened subsequently was improvised. Cities were built and rebuilt as a response to the changing needs of its citizens, and for the most part, the ‘new’ was layered on top of the ‘old’.

Until the second decade of the 20th century, cities had largely evolved organically. That was before intentional city planning came to play. One of the key turning points was the implementation of New York City’s zoning laws in 1916. These zoning regulations divided the city into specific land-use zones, residential, commercial, and industrial areas. It also imposed rigorous restrictions on building heights and densities, marking a departure from the organic growth of cities, as it introduced deliberate control and direction over urban development.

Skip to the 21st century and suddenly, cities are vastly upgraded. Technological advancements, new science, and accurate data are allowing contractors and architects to work smarter and construct bigger, mixed-used developments that house millions of people.

Today, the reality stands as such: cities around the world account for over 70% of global CO2 emissions and industrial and motorised systems are the major culprit thanks to their usage of non-renewable energy.

The good news? “Cities are the heart of the problem, and therefore also at the heart of the solution,” states Space 10, a research and design lab centred on people and the planet. After launching its latest report ‘The Ideal City’ the next steps become clear as sustainable and more resilient cities are placed under the spotlight.

In the report, it is explained that an ideal city “must embody qualities such as resourcefulness, accessibility, shared spaces, safety, and desirability.” By using these principles as a foundation, future metropolises are envisioned to become greener, healthier, more sustainable, and inclusive. Moreover, the incorporation of these five guiding values are believed to create a city that is more resilient and economically productive.


A resourceful city

The concept of a resourceful city is possibly one of the most popular among architects and planners. It refers to urban centres that are efficient, innovative, and strategic in managing their resources to meet inhabitant needs while ultimately minimising waste and environmental impact. It’s simple, yet the most difficult to achieve considering budget constraints, existing infrastructure, bureaucratic challenges, and more.

That said, to be a winner, “cities should couple the ‘hard’ factors of real estate and infrastructure with the intangible ‘soft’ factors of culture and social capital,” says Marco Dall’Orso, Chief Operating Officer of Arexpo, a company that focuses on urban regeneration.

“While crafting strategies for the recreation of urban environments, people should be put at the forefront of balancing and integrating multiple strategies, adopting ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ factors that benefit the entire community. This approach is complex and requires a holistic view supported by multi-disciplinary resources,” Dall’Orso added.


An accessible city

Oftentimes, flying cars, towering skyscrapers, holographic displays, and hyper-connected citizens are what come to mind when envisioning a city of the future. Though in hindsight, what is a futuristic metropolis without its capacity to be adaptable to people of all ages, ability, financial stability, and ethnicity?

“A smart city is all about building connections which transcend geography – something more deep-rooted and emotional,” comments Vaibhav Belgaonkar, Co-founder of Joomzee Geotracker, a location-based O2O service provider.

He believes: “Better infrastructure is an integral part of building smart cities, but first comes building awareness about existing resources and then preparing for easier accessibility and navigation.”

Ultimately, an accessible city guarantees fair and equal access to a wide range of urban facilities, including employment, healthcare, education, cultural activities, business opportunities, recreational options, historical heritage, sports facilities, and natural spaces. Most importantly, a genuinely accessible city ensures affordable housing and opportunities for homeownership and actively fosters community engagement and empowerment.


A shared and desirable city

A shared city is an ideal city, and an ideal city is one that attracts residents and families to make it their home. It’s a concept that places culture at the centre, and although most cities have successfully adapted this characteristic – Rome, Osaka, Barcelona, Shanghai – only a handful have recently acknowledged the significance of incorporating culture into the design and construction of cities.

In 2010, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made their first move at restoring its historical sites. Following the designation of its At-Turaif District in Diriyah as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the kingdom began an extensive archaeological restoration process, meticulously bringing the original mud city back to its former glory.

When the restoration was completed in 2019, His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia called for an inauguration announcing the rebirth of Diriyah to the world. Namely ‘Diriyah Gate’, the new project contributes to the country’s Vision 2030 strategy by proudly showcasing Saudi Arabia’s 300+ years of history through an engaging set of heritage, hospitality, education, retail, and dining experiences for residents and tourists to enjoy.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia is also placing a strong emphasis on constructing human-centric communities. Riyadh-headquartered ROSHN has demonstrated its ability to create smart and connected living spaces through innovative solutions and AI technology. Tasked with enabling home ownership for 70% of Saudi nationals, ROSHN plays an active role in improving the quality of life for its residents by fostering vibrant and sustainable communities.

“Our integrated communities are demonstrating the effectiveness of our concept,” says David Grover, Group CEO of ROSHN, “We are already significantly impacting Saudi society.”

On the other hand, Dubai stands as one of the most urbanised cities in the Middle East. Its roads, in particular, have exceptionally done well after adapting the ‘turbine interchange’, a road infrastructure that allows drivers coming from four directions to engage in any turn without slowing or weaving into traffic.

The UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi, has also been involved in the urbanisation of the country after the launch and inception of its $15 billion carbon-neutral community named ‘Masdar City’ in 2008. At present, Masdar City holds the title of the most sustainable community in the UAE, containing one of the largest clusters of low-carbon buildings,  all certified by the Department of Municipalities or LEED green building rating systems.

Fast forward to where we stand now and the future of Middle Eastern cities looks just as promising. Just last year, Dubai announced its participation to host the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28).

As host, the UAE will mobilise action around a ‘major course correction’ to accelerate emissions reductions, while ensuring energy security. It is a significant initiative that will allow the country to give their input on how cities should be retrofitted and constructed from the ground up.

Additionally, many urban planners and developers in the region have begun to visualise an even more efficient world. Developer and accelerator URB has demonstrated its eagerness to create a resilient city after the launch of ‘THE LOOP’, a 93-kilometre sustainable urban highway. The Dubai-based project aims to connect more than three million residents using a healthy mode of transport, to key locations by walking and cycling within minutes.


Sustainable cities are not optional, but rather a must

The evolution of cities throughout human history has seen a shift from organic growth to intentional planning. Among the various ideals, resourceful cities are particularly sought after, as they prioritise efficient resource management and sustainability. However, achieving resourceful cities is no easy feat and looking ahead, the success of building ideal cities lies in the collaboration of experts, government bodies, and communities.

By embracing resourcefulness, accessibility, and a people-centric approach, it is possible to create cities that are not only technologically advanced but also enrich the lives of their inhabitants, paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable urban future.


Source: Construction Week