Residents of Dubai or Abu Dhabi – congratulations. According to a lecture given at a futurology conference in London last week, the cities have already been earmarked as the winners of the decades to come because of one all-important feature, and it’s not oil.
According to the urban designer Christopher Choa, who was behind the master plan for Saadiyat Island, among many other international projects, cities of the future will live or die by their airports.
It’s lucky for Emiratis, then, that the UAE has some of the world’s best-connected cities by air – and its airports are still growing.
Abu Dhabi has one of the fastest-expanding airports in the world, with a new terminal slated to open in 2017 that promises to almost triple its capacity to about 30 million passengers per year. But it’s dwarfed by Dubai International, already the world’s fourth busiest airport by international passenger traffic, which is planning to up its capacity from 50 million annual passengers to 90 million by 2018. At the other edge of the city, the new Al Maktoum International is open for cargo, with a passenger terminal to follow.
All this feverish expansion may be cause for celebration among business types, but what about the rest of us? Isn’t there something a little dystopian about a vision of the future in which we all live under flight paths, and it’s more common to hop over to Frankfurt or Shanghai than to take a trip to Ajman or Umm Al Qaiwain?
Choa’s answer is a resounding “no”. In an interview after his speech at the Intelligence Squared If Conference in Kensington, he pointed out that New Yorkers weren’t fond of Grand Central Station when it opened in 1871, and that no one wanted to live on the Manhattan waterfront in the great age of the New York City port, but we have since happily integrated trains and ships into our lives and our cities. More info