Abu Dhabi to realise one of architecture’s greatest schemes

A spokesperson to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, announced today that his government has reached an agreement with the Le Corbusier foundation over the rights of the architect’s famous Ville Radieuse schemes.

Construction will begin early next year on the 2.5 million square meter plan in the west of Abu Dhabi, and is scheduled for early 2015. The projected budget, an impressive 4.5 billion US Dollar, will be provided for by private investors in the Arab world and the royal family’s own resources.

The Le Corbusier Foundation was approached by Abu Dhabi’s Emir Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan after the latter read a new book on Le Corbusier’s idea for the city of the future. In his Ville Radieuse scheme, completed in 1933, the famous Swiss architect – famous for his Notre Dame-du-Haut chapel in the north-east of France and his Unite d’Habitation housing concept – proposed a new plan for the city, where city dwellers would be offered plenty of green space and fresh air, and at the same time excellent mobility possibilities. In the Emir’s opinion, the arguments that eventually prevented Le Corbusier from realising his piece de resistance – the problematic size of the projected shadows of the buildings and the enormous costs and time needed for the construction – are no longer valid. He believes Abu Dhabi will, by completing the project, show the world that one of architecture’s greatest schemes has stood the test of time and will, with modern construction techniques, provide a comfortable living environment for one of the worlds most progressive nations.

The proposal, with apartments for roughly 8-900,000 people – the original plan provided space for up to three million inhabitants – 1.5 million square meters of shopping and offices, and a grid of six-lane highways, is the latest in a line of mega-constructions in the Emirates. Construction on the third Palm Island, the Palm Deira has recently begun, and schemes by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and English architect Sir Norman Foster are also slated to begin before the end of this year.