MADINAT AL IRFAN
Allies and Morrison was appointed following an invited competition held by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) to create a masterplan for a new city, Madinat Al Irfan, outside the Sultanate’s capital, Muscat. This exemplar urban project, acting as a model for future sustainable development for growing cities, will create a new capital district for the Muscat region, embracing Omani culture and heritage by learning from the past to inform a future built environment. Our response to the brief for Madinat Al Irfan, which will have a living, working and visiting population of 280,000, emerges from Oman’s considered policy of sustainable development and promotion of its cultural heritage.
The new city has grown out of an understanding of the geography and culture with a wadi at its heart. Wadis, seasonal water courses that erode the desert plateau to carve a distinct terrain, shape the patterns of human settlement. Understanding the symbolic importance of the wadis in Omani culture and making best use of its particular terrain, the whole development has been structured around their setting, with small grain villages located in the areas of increased topography, and urban centres in the plateau-like areas of the site, each with their own distinct character.
Each of these centres connect with bridges across the Wadi Park to villages located on the southern side of the overall development. These bridges define the character of Irfan; more than crossings, they are place-making elements that act as gathering points and retention of structure, maintaining the water basins, creating an identifiable ‘City of Bridges’.
The framework of connections and bridges will enable the city to grow organically out of the landscape to evolve into a place that is particular to its context and memorable, with a phased development complete at each stage. The pattern of urban settlement consists of complex geometries and simple buildings, compactly designed with natural shading that encourages movement on foot rather than the use of cars and provides outside comfort in the hot environment. Throughout Irfan, contemporary architectural language draws inspiration from the local vernacular, providing expression to Omani cultural identity, instilling a strong sense of a city that is grounded and permanent, unique and archetypal.
A comprehensive set of design codes developed for Madinat Al Irfan will be a fundamental part of the Masterplan, as they are effectively the core set of instructions and guidance that will make the implementation possible and enable the inspiring vision behind this project to come to life. A proposed governance structure and planning process will guide the work of the master developer and give certainty and guidance to the numerous sub-developers who will build Madinat Al Irfan.
Bob Allies, Nerea Aranbarri, Silvia Asuni, Romy Berlin, Tom Bradley, Alfredo Caraballo, Nicholas Choy, Peter Clarson, Giuliano Cosi, Rupert Fisher, Alex Ford, Maria Chislanzoni, Amarilnto Gkiosa, Yoshi Hayashi, David Hodgson, Anna Jarkiewicz, Amandeep Kalra, Helen Logan, Graham Morrison, Peter Ohnrich, Lianne Peterkin, Agnese Saggia, Bryony Spottiswoode, Uzma Waheed, Alastair Warburton, Karman Wan
Allies and Morrison
Infrastructure, transport and environmental design
Kim Wilkie Associates in associate with Arup
Specialist advisor for implementation