Elie Mrad, Arada’s Head of Architecture and Design talks green spaces, people, and how the two intersect to create harmonious living

What is the design intent behind your new project, Masaar?

Arada’s third project, Masaar is a mega community in the Al Juwaiza’a district of New Sharjah, which has a sales value of AED8 billion. The 19 million square foot upscale project will include 4,000 villas and townhouses in total, all set in eight gated districts.

Masaar provides the residents of Sharjah with high-quality community living in harmony with nature. The concept of the masterplan is to create a gated residential community of single and multi-family villas and townhouses floating in green lush environment.

Meaning ‘path’ in Arabic, Masaar is designed to be conduit that leads to the creation of a lifetime of memorable experiences for the residents as a child, a parent, and a family.

Elie Mrad

What sort of facilities will be included to bring this design intent to life?

With the aim of creating a community-centric development, a green spine has been shaped to link the multiple communities at Masaar. The spine has been programmed with passive and active spaces.

As a result, the forested spaces at Masaar will contain a mix of an active pedestrian network and a passive forest environment. The design ensures the creation of activities that are well-integrated and respectful of nature, while also catering to the residents in every phase of their lives.

The focal point of Masaar is a forested heart featuring an experience centre, a Zad food truck district, a full-service fitness centre, a skatepark, a children’s adventure playground and an events space. Masaar’s community centre will contain an anchor supermarket, shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as a wide variety of services to cater to residents’ day-to-day needs. Also included in the Masaar masterplan is a large international school and nursery, located to the north side of the project.

One of Masaar’s main attractions will be a five-kilometre looped and continuous two-lane cycling track that will be able to cater to leisure riders as well as professionals. Residents and visitors from outside the community will be able to ride through lush woodlands, with resting spots and healthy cafes located adjacent to the track.

Through these amenities and the green spine, Masaar ensures a balanced active and passive residential environment. This will benefit residents’ health and wellbeing, giving them a sense of belonging to the place.

Masaar boasts a range of four and five bedroom Sendian Park Villas, which are some of the most desirable homes in Sharjah.

How does your design intent extend to the houses at Masaar?

At Masaar, every home is designed to bring the surrounding lush gardens inside the house while ensuring the privacy of the users. The architecture of the villas is characterised by straight lines which complement the organic forms of the landscaping both inside and in around the home. Each house is provided with abundant open space and well-integrated landscaping and trees. A space has been designed for each home to embrace the trees. Furthermore, the interior spaces are designed to ensure a continuous flow between indoors and outdoors. Using floor-to-ceiling glass, an intimate delightful environment is created indoors that will become a backdrop for a lifetime of memories with the family.

Living in Masaar, every home is connected to a part of the active lush landscape as their backyard. This allows the residents access to both intimate and sociable outdoor spaces. Masaar creates an inclusive, dynamic, and safe sanctuary to have good experiences and enjoyable moments with your loved ones both indoors and outdoors.

What is the timeline for Masaar?

Construction will start on Masaar in the second quarter of this year, and we aim to hand over the first homes in the community in the first quarter of 2023. By that time, we will have already delivered the sports, retail, entertainment and leisure facilities, to ensure that these are ready even before the first residents move in. At 19 million square feet, Masaar is certainly one of the largest project sites in the UAE, so we anticipate that it will take seven years to finish the community once construction has started.

All these homes provide an impressive independent living area, all housed within a lush environment.

Will each of the districts at Masaar have the same layout and design?

Each of the eight districts at Masaar will have its own unique architectural style, with a different name and a different feel, while at the same time complementing the modern and contemporary design of the overall plan. So, for example, if buyers like the design of the villas in the Sendian district of Masaar, they should be aware that there are only a limited number of these available, and they will not be repeated in later districts.

All districts at Masaar are connected to and will benefit from the incredible range of outdoor, sporting and entertainment facilities located in the ‘green spine’ of the project. This tree-filled space is what will make Masaar the UAE’s most serene residential community, with residents able to take woodland walks, enjoy quiet meditation or yoga in purposefully designed locations, or cycle along a looped five-kilometre forested track.

Every district at Masaar will contain approximately 500 homes, and we will launch a new district on a 10-month rolling basis, or more rapidly if demand is strong.

Are you considering new technologies, or a sustainable or environmentally friendly approach to Masaar?

People living at Masaar will be living in truly smart homes, each of which has direct access to green parks. They will also be able to enjoy a superb range of outdoor sports facilities, all set within a forested environment that will help to promote both physical and mental health.

At the same time, we are also working hard to ensure that Masaar is environmentally friendly as possible. Our onsite treatment plant will provide recycled water for the more than 50,000 trees at Masaar, while state-of-the-art irrigation systems will minimize water loss and reduce costs. In addition, the way that trees will be planted at Masaar will also create a microclimate that will actually contribute to lowering temperatures within the community, thus reducing cooling bills.

How will Masaar impact the UAE real estate market in general and Sharjah in particular?

The UAE’s real estate sector has certainly gone through a difficult period in recent years, but not all individual markets within the country are the same. Sharjah has proved to be a remarkably resilient market, with demand staying very competitive even as the effects of the pandemic hit home last year. The most recent data from the Sharjah Real Estate Registration Department showed that the value of property sold in the third quarter of last year rose by 10% against the same period a year before, which is a remarkable achievement in the circumstances.

Our own results, which showed a 35% rise in the total value of property sold to AED1.75 billion in 2020, also show that demand for well-designed fully integrated communities in Sharjah remains strong.

We believe that Masaar is a first-of-its-kind project, not just for Sharjah but the whole UAE. Our focus on active healthy living, top-quality design, incredible entertainment and sporting facilities and beautiful green spaces have all come together to create a community that will make residents feel happy, safe and secure at a time when these aspects have never been more important.

We are aware that there is significant demand for high-quality housing in Sharjah. Masaar certainly fits that profile, and will help to contribute towards making the Emirate a more favourable place to live in.

Arada has recently launched a creative district at its other megaproject, Aljada. Why is the company focusing on this area and what facilities will this district have?

In December, we launched Naseej District, which is a fantastic new addition to Aljada, which with a sales value of AED24 billion and an area of 24 million square feet, is by Sharjah’s largest ever project.

Naseej, which means fabric, reflects Arada’s aspiration to weave together diverse skills, talents and backgrounds to turn the cultural district into a coherent social space for the creative community in Sharjah. Containing 16 apartment buildings designed in a contemporary style and accompanied by anchor cultural attractions, Naseej District will also be bolstered by a range of creative events that will encourage both residents and visitors to collaborate and learn. Visitors to Naseej District, as well as art enthusiasts from around the UAE, will also enjoy an array of high-quality cultural, artistic and retail destinations right on their doorstep. At one end of the district is an iconic and beautifully designed building that will incorporate galleries, a museum and exhibition space. An architectural statement in itself, this showpiece building will be a focal point for learning, with permanent exhibits focusing on topics such as Sharjah’s growth story and climate change.

Residents and visitors will also be able to enjoy a truly immersive cultural atmosphere at Naseej District, thanks to a year-round programme of events and activations, including outdoor and indoor art installations and exhibitions, events dedicated to the creative industries including an annual design week, and monthly meet-ups for children.