Oman’s ambitious smart-city of the future is set to accommodate 100,000

Sultan Haitham City, a visionary metropolis designed by London-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), is set to redefine urban living in Oman. Spanning 1,480 hectares of previously undeveloped land in Al Seeb, a suburb of Muscat, this smart-city will cater to a diverse population, including residents, expatriates, and tourists.

Design graphic of the new city development

The city’s master plan encompasses 19 distinctive neighbourhoods, fostering community life and providing over 20,000 new homes. An important aspect of Sultan Haitham City is its integration with a modern mass transit system, enhancing connectivity along Oman’s picturesque coastline.

Designed to complement Al Seeb’s existing district, this city hopes to enrich the lives of current residents by introducing new social amenities and substantial public spaces. Simultaneously, it should address Oman’s growing population by creating new residential opportunities.

SOM’s involvement in Sultan Haitham City is part of Oman Vision 2040, aligning with the nation’s goal of keeping pace with global and regional transformations. The design brief emphasised the importance of honouring Oman’s cultural and architectural heritage while envisioning contemporary urban structures.

Vision of a sustainable smart-city

To achieve this, SOM prioritises the use of local and natural materials, adhering to a neutral colour palette that harmonises with Oman’s architectural legacy. Sustainability is another driving force behind the project, particularly resilience to climate change, given the increasing occurrence of seasonal flood events in the region.

The master plan includes the transformation of a 7.5-kilometre-long dry river (wadi) into a public green park capable of retaining water during severe flood events. This innovative approach not only mitigates flooding risks but also harnesses water as a valuable resource.

Sultan Haitham City is envisioned as Oman’s first-ever smart city, incorporating deployable technologies and sustainable strategies. Advanced traffic management systems, reliant on real-time traffic data, will enhance transportation efficiency and alleviate congestion.

To reduce car dependency, the city will promote sustainable modes of transportation, accommodating e-bikes and e-scooters. Passive design strategies will optimize shading, natural cooling breezes, and renewable energy technologies throughout the city.

SOM’s commitment to creating sustainable, forward-thinking urban environments extends beyond Sultan Haitham City. The studio is involved in projects such as Alárò City in Nigeria, aimed at generating thousands of jobs, and the development of a new Egyptian capital to alleviate congestion in Cairo.

Sustainability Skepticism

In a similar vein, the proposal for California Forever, led by Silicon Valley investors, envisions the transformation of vast farmlands in Solano County into a pioneering city, albeit amid controversy. Sultan Haitham City embodies Oman’s aspirations for modernity, sustainability, and resilience in the face of evolving urban challenges.

As with many of these Large and rapid urban development programs sustainability is an important question. The city blueprint has obviously been made with a futuristic model of sustainability in mind, but whether projects like this align with sustainability goals or not is another question.

Following the virtues of sustainable development, urban construction should only be done when strictly necessary and with minimal environmental, social or financial cost. Despite this project striving towards many sustainable targets such as reviving green areas and implementing efficient low-emission transport systems, there is still an enormous and unavoidable carbon and energy cost associated with a project of this scale.

It remains to be seen whether this development program will produce the desired habitat in a sustainable manner and if SOM can succeed in this ambitious endeavour.

Learn More on Firstplanit

To learn more about new developments in the world of sustainable construction, have a look at the Firstplanit blog page.

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