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VERSATILE UNIT FOR URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Dubai : From Private Sector Manufacturing to Community-Led Urbanism ?

When we look at how Dubai is locally and internationally promoted, we generally see a celebration of how the city has risen from dust in just a few decades and how it has become a tough and tenacious competitor to other great metropolises in the world.

Oil being its main source of wealth, and the harsh climate its ultimate challenge, the urban structure of Dubai was built around the cult of personal transportation and petrol consumption. In fact, unlike the image of a dense centrality of the city, Dubai is quite spread out. It is essentially built around highways and multi-lane roads.

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What helps this urban sprawl is the carte blanche granted to the private real estate development sector. Since opening the market to foreign investors in the 2000s, the Dubai Holding council, which ensured respect for urban manufacturing, had to hand over the reins to the invisible hand of the market.

This transfer of responsibility has led to fragmented urban planning, which is no longer viable considering the needs of the contemporary city and its population. The concept of division by specialized zones (economic area, university campuses area, health center, residential areas and gated communities, etc) has transformed Dubai into a mosaic of themed districts. These different neighborhoods do not seem to have clear links that connect each fragment to the other nor a general territorial coherence.

The main issues governing the urban structure of the city are the laws of competition between different property development companies. Urban planning is thus completely liberalized. Although there has been a significant jump in real estate production since the subprime crisis in 2008, Dubai still suffers from its sequels and must bet on a new way to think the city.

How can we reinforce the sense of community in human-scale neighborhoods ? What can we do to invest empty vacant lots and give them an efficient role within large fragmented districts ? And finally, how can we encourage a more responsible behaviour towards urban mobility ?
Baitykool : Building Within The City, Within Density

Building in Dubai represents an ongoing challenge. As the metropolis continues to seduce more and more young professionals, entrepreneurs and bright individuals with new ideas, real estate development reaches each passing year an all-time high and tries to come up with creative answers to the new population’s needs. Skyscrapers grow taller, and the distances between everyday places spread larger adding complexity to daily tasks.

In order to reduce the use of personal transportation, simplify the accomplishment of daily commitments and encourage an interaction between people and services within the same neighbourhoods, our concept is to use the Baitykool prototype as a versatile unit to create human scale mixed-programme centralities.

We decided to locate an empty lot as an example of what we could create in vacant spaces within a mainly residential area. Our goal is to inject life with a low-rise human-scale multifunctional complex that includes individual and semi-collective housing, offices, co-working spaces, recreational facilities and different shaded streets and public spaces. The challenge is significant, given the harsh climate that pushes people to live and practice space only when it is covered and air-conditioned. That is why it is important to create short distance outdoor spaces that connect the different elements in this new neighborhood.
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33rd Street, Dubai, UAE

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 33rd Street, Dubai, UAE

This neighbourhood has a lot of potential, given the pre-existing services nearby (mostly educational), but more importantly, it challenges the widely spread out vision of the Dubai Skyline by addressing a suburban-like morphology. In this area, we propose to use our Baitykool prototype as a duplicable unit to create a common interest community based on knowledge-economy.
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All the community living in the Baitykool development is to work together and cultivate a local economy to build a creative hub and compete with larger companies. The originality of the project lies in the fact that the community both works and lives in the same area, thus reducing long single commutes to walkable distances.
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One of the best advantages of our prototype is its ability to adapt to as many functions as we need to create an almost self-sufficient centrality. By creating multi-storey options, while keeping a globally low-rise built environment, we allow more density that not only gives opportunity to more people to live within this community, but it also provides qualitative shaded streets where the inhabitants, as well as the communities’ neighbours, can walk, meet and interact. In fact, considering the strong structure of our prototype, we can easily stack it on several levels without the need of renewing structural calculations.

Having a common professional interest community can help us develop a local network through which the inhabitants can manage both their private and public spaces by making everyone responsible of their environment. Also, it will be a way to express their needs and find help quickly and locally, and carpooling is one of the best examples (grocery shopping, appointments in other districts).
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With Baitykool, we aspire to create sustainable neighborhoods that can help fill the gaps of the existing urban fabric of Dubai, using the following principles as our guidelines :
     - Human scale neighbourhood
     - Low-rise buildings
     - Building within density / within the city
     - Taking advantage of the public transport system
     - Develop in a mixed program / mixed use neighborhood
     - Provide proximity to services / avoid long single commutes
     - Invest empty / abandoned lots / without designation