LWK + PARTNERS collaborates with the UAE’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to realise Dubai’s latest public realm projects.The MENA Studio of the Hong Kong-based practice LWK + PARTNERS has recently completed a unique package of urban engagement projects in collaboration with Dubai’s RTA, that were approved at the end of April by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The practice focussed on the pedestrian experience and place-making, which can be achieved by utilising advanced integrated transport technology, and the activation of the public realm by inclusion of public art and improved mobility. The design brief highlighted the needs for better connectivity across the city and opportunities to create new destinations at strategically important locations. The six commissioned projects established an imperative of addressing the need for ‘Urban Transformation’ across the city of Dubai and making it more human-centric. The initiatives are aimed at enhancing the day-to-day happiness needs of the established communities in which they are located. Working on the project was challenging, with both a tight time frame and a broader vision at its heart that need to be activated appropriately for a nation that constantly strives to improve and set new benchmarks around ‘liveability’ and relevance for its citizens and visitors alike.

Hanging Garden Bridge (Sky Garden): Dubai creek is a vibrant and essential artery of the city and a vital resource that the RTA wished to activate by facilitating easy connectivity across its banks. A ‘living bio footbridge’ with engaging public activities is proposed to connect the Al Seef area to the Deira side towards the Union Square. The concept was loosely based on the historically recognised notion of the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon”. Expect here a green Oasis is “Suspended” in the air across the Creek, linking two historic parts of the city of Dubai. The bridge spans 380m in length, 60m in height and covers an area of 3,422sqm . It will be a new Dubai landmark and tourist destination for residents and visitors, it will connect many of the city’s existing landmarks along the shores of Dubai Creek. It has a hanging garden extending along the length of the bridge together with multilevel lanes for strolling, cycling, and running.

Hanging Garden Bridge

Sheikh Zayed Road promenade: A challenge in designing a successful urban space is encouraging visitors to take active participation in their surroundings. Such placemaking initiatives can be achieved through the use of public art, commercial and F&B kiosks and community engagement components all of which the Sheikh Zayed new activation cleverly responds to in rejuvenating the harsh public realm experience that currently prevails. People respond to art that connects them emotionally and physically – art they can interact with, that adds soul and a deeper conceptual meaning to the shared experience of public life. Art in the urban environment taps into human emotion, linking the individual to the collective, conceptually narrating the place in which it is situated. Sheikh Zayed Road occupies some of the most centrally located public space in Dubai. The promenade is located between Dubai World Trade Centre and Financial Centre Metro Stations and utilises the area underneath the Dubai Metro viaduct, transforming it into a 2.5 km green artery for the public to engage in walking, cycling, gathering, and contributing to public events and engagements. The walkways include three key nodes – Bazaar Street, Technology Park, and Urban Park covering an area of 54,000sqm.

Sunset Promenade: The new beachfront destination features a unique range of activities it covers an area of 80,000m2 connected to Jumeirah Beach Walk and specially designed to cater for family entertainment. Dealing with the site restrictions and narrow beach depth, Sunset Promenade offers a range of small Islands which would be partially reclaimed and floating pontoons/platforms, to provide additional seafront facilities with a total beach area of 107,000m2 .The floating portion is designed not disturb the seabed and the surrounding marine life, providing unique opportunities for a more ecologically sensitive development. The Promenade will feature green hills, sandy hills, parking lots, public facilities and retail and dining spaces, with zones uniquely programmed to encourage all day and evening entertainment activities, in a more sustainable way.

Deira Plaza: In areas that face high traffic volume and congestion an attempt to encourage more vibrant Public Realm activities is needed to assist in mitigating the unfriendly pedestrian environment. Deira Plaza is designed to promote environmentally comfortable public spaces by offering an Urban Plaza programme, without compromising the much-needed vehicular parking facilities required by residents and visitors. The Plaza will cover an area of 35,000m2 and provides a multi-layered urban public space for entertainment and community activities. The design sensitively increases the parking numbers to around 1000 spaces, as well as including a series of urban parks, performance and event facilities, with food and beverage outlets which provide unique urban experiences in Deira. such urban squares as pocket play a very important role in social life, not only by serving its community but contributing towards creating a vibrant, dynamic, and liveable city.

Public Realm Plaza

Skypods: Technological innovations will continue to have a profound impact on urban living and the future of our cities. It is estimated that over 70% of the world population will be living in cities by 2050. The over population and density will impose great restriction on mobility and means of transport. It is imperative that we invest in the new modes of public movement, if our cities to remain functional, liveable and free of congestion. One such way is the suspended mono-rail , cable car system. It is a fast, agile and efficient mode of transport, suited to the demands of 21 century metropolises. The suspended transit system links vital spots across the city such as the Dubai Financial Centre and the Downtown with the Business Bay. Passing through the Happiness Street and runs up to City Walk, through tracks extending one kilometre in length, the project, which has 21 stations and the capacity to transit 8,400 riders per hour per direction, offers an urban transit experience. The Cable Car network will be integrated with the cities exciting wider transport system. Miniating a futuristic feel to the urban transit experience is curtail and that was considered during the design exercise for terminal and arriving stations. The cable stations were designed to be light, efficient and in harmony with the current metro stations appearance and form. The approved designs for the cable cars and the support structure systems complements the Dubai streetscape without adversely impacting the skyline giving the city a unique futuristic identity.

Umm Suqeim pedestrian bridge: Improving mobility is not only a potential solution to improve transportation services for citizens, but it’s also an opportunity to connect valuable urban spaces across the city, which could be better used to cater to public needs and raise liveability standards. 110m pedestrian bridge above Jumeirah Street with dedicated cycling and running lanes. The bridge facilitates better connectivity between Umm Suqeim & Jumeirah. The bridge aims to encourage pedestrian activities and promote safe and environmentally comfortable public spaces across the city. Connecting some of the key destinations like the Madinat Jumeirah Souq, to the Mall of the Emirates Metro links, and across to the Dubai Hills Mall. Bridges can be more than simple structures; their role is vital in connectivity hence it is important to find new ways of utilising them. Bridges can showcase a lot more than their architectural language. We Thank Roads and Transport authority RTA for this exceptional opportunity and we highly appreciate them selecting us as their trusted collaboration partner for such high calibre projects. LWK+PARTNERS employs 20 years of experience in urbanism and research where they helped shaping experiences that focus on communities and pedestrians. We believe emphasis should always be on a connected urbanism and on the people, their health and how urbanism can improve their lives. By investing in the needs of the residents and devoting the necessary resources to funding human-centric projects, cities can improve the lives of individuals and thereby make society more productive and happier.