President and Design Director
NORR Group Consultants International Limited, Dubai
During the 20th century, the great urban centers of the Western World witnessed an unprecedented transformation in the form and density of their built environments. Social, economic, and political forces aligned to create high-density city centers that, over time, have come to symbolize the achievements of the developed world. More recently, a somewhat different transformation has begun to overlay itself on cities of the developing world. Over the past few decades, a sustained economic boom in many parts of Asia and the Middle East has resulted in the rise of an urban middle class, a dramatic rise in land values, and the emergence of high-rise city centers.
In the new millennium, accelerating urbanization within Asia and the Middle East presents a unique opportunity – a chance to reconsider prevailing models of urbanism and city growth. There is an opportunity to reconcile the best of urban design from the past within the context of ongoing societal and technological change. Among the many challenges facing rapidly growing cities in the region is the need for sustainable and appropriate density as a counterpoint to unmitigated sprawl. This presentation focuses on the recent past and the potential role of emerging technologies as a catalyst for radical change in the form of our cities. It includes an analysis of Dubai – looking back on a 70-year period, through its transformation from a village to a “modern city.” In the near future, there are exciting possibilities for disruptive technologies to radically transform urbanism as we know it – in Dubai and in other cities in the region.