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Reevaluating Urban Resilience: Learning from Dubai's Recent Weather Crisis and the Imperative of Natural Systems in Climate Change Adaptation

Date: May 03, 2024
Category: Studio News
240418 Al Quds St Near Terminal 2 Dubai 1

Dubai recently suffered through an extreme weather event that any city in the world would have struggled to cope with – but raised the question, should there be more consideration of natural systems to combat the impacts of flooding, in a future where climate change related events may be more common?

Our MENA Regional Studio Director Rowan D'Arcy thinks that might be the case. On the ground in Dubai, he made three observations.

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- Where surface water was actively managed using the public realm for attenuation and infiltration the disruption was less severe – Emaar Dubai Hills Central Park was one good example, where the above-ground drainage system mitigated some of the flooding impacts on the development.

- The disrupted transportation systems made Dubai instantly more human-scaled – highways became footpaths, neighbourhoods became villages, distances were accentuated, and amenity-rich, walkable microcosms became invaluable.

- The power of nature to bring people together was obvious, even though the city’s infrastructure might have come to a halt for a time. People went out of their way to help others that were in need, with a “we will find a way” attitude evident in how the adverse situations were overcome and how the cleanup operation was addressed by the UAE Government.

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Overall, recent events are testament to the importance of robust strategies that integrate natural systems to help mitigate the possible impacts of future climate change related extreme weather events. While the storm was hugely impactful for many, it also highlighted the immense opportunity for urbanists and landscape architects to challenge “business as usual” design norms, toward ground-up, human centric urban strategies, to achieve real-world benefits for the arid cities in the region, in a future of uncertain climate conditions.