Dubai masterplan 2020

A summary


These are some of the challenges before Dubai Masterplan came into effect. Dubai is car-dependant and the design is lacking a sense of uniformity. Moreover, pedestrians are unable to walk freely between neighbourhoods (as opposed to most cities today).


Dubai Masterplan 2020 is more people-centric through the following efforts. Reducing car-dependancy through public transport solutions, along with more focus on walkability/cycling with a TOD-friendly built environment. While the city is still too dependent on cars, some efforts have improved the walkability of the city.

The former Dubai Master Plan was created in the middle of the 20th century. This plan has the goal of compact growth through developing a new road system, new town centre, and utilise the traditional euclidean zoning (single-use zoning). Consequently, this led to large land areas being zoned for one single use.

After constructing the first bridge across Dubai Creek (completed in 1963), an urban centre started to form in Deira. But later the development expanded south around the bridge. This development was in accordance to the compact growth strategy envisioned for Dubai.

Nevertheless, just a few years later Dubai started its grand scheme to expand the city much further south. Development started to form along the main road connecting to Dubai to Abu Dhabi. Accordingly, Dubai started to form as a linear city as we know if today. 


High-Rise Buildings

Population (region)

Land Area (


The current Dubai Masterplan includes the Dubai Emirate territories and sea-areas (12 nautical miles out in the sea). It is a flexible plan which stresses a sustainable and competitive approach. In addition, it attempts to become a city of excellence. But the plan does not explain what a city of excellence actually is.

Furthermore, the plan “seeks to optimise on existing government infrastructure investments; rationalise an integrated land-use and transport; protect key economic assets; and be flexible and responsive to the environmental challenges and constraints, and to the socio-economic transformations.” Over the past years, the government has driven key investments within the transport and infrastructure sector.

Like many cities, Dubai is trying to reduce the car-dependancy. Consequently, a number of policies promoting public transportation are in place. However, the current capacity of the metro system is already limited. Therefore it is important that the public transport expansion and investments are carried out.

Dubai Masterplan Strategic Direction

There are many challenges and opportunities that have been identified by the development authorities. Based on these analyses and findings, the municipality has set out 8 strategic directions to work towards:

1. Protect and facilitate economic opportunities.
2. Provide flexibility for growth.
3. Consolidate development projects.
4. Conserve natural systems.
5. Facilitate social needs.
6. Optimise infrastructure and services.
7. Broaden connectivity, accessibility and movement.
8. Promote a sustainable open space system.

In the development of Dubai Masterplan, the preferred spatial growth scenario was found to be the compact city. The scenario is needed in Dubai, and has a huge potential for improving community facilities usage. Besides it makes use of land more efficiently. In contrast to developing buildings in the outer city and continuing the urban sprawl that started in the 1970s.

Therefore, walkability and TODs will be important to create stronger and more vibrant neighbourhoods. Because this will essentially lead to a more environmental and sustainable Dubai.

Dubai Masterplan 2020 Strategic Land Use Plan


Similar to other cities along the Gulf, Dubai has developed in a linear pattern. Such strip development has (without doubt) enlarged the car-dependancy in the city. In order to access daily needs, residents drive just a few minutes. But by walking this is another story. Furthermore, cycling is quite restricted unless you are up for an illegal, dangerous or ‘illogical’ ride.

The city that once was pedestrian-oriented, had neighbourhood centres sprawled over large areas of land has faded away. Today, it may seem like the city is all too focused on the tallest, largest and biggest. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the public realm. Pedestrians and cyclists face many physical barriers and have to walk and bike long distances to get their daily needs. Fortunately, the city is aiming to address this issue. At last some of the old qualities are planned kept, and cycling routes are planned to increase.

Despite this, Dubai’s greatest achievement  today remains the opening of Dubai metro in 2009.

For more information read the Magazine.

Dubai City Plan 2020 Walkability
Dubai City Plan 2020 Cycling


A summary of Dubai 2020 masterplanning process can be found here: Urban Masterplan 2020 Summary

An overview of the Road and Transport Authority’s Strategy Plan: Road and Transport Authority Strategy Plan

A brief introduction to the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015: Dubai Strategic Plan 2015


Place Dynamix

Place Dynamix, a rising and innovative small firm in Dubai, kindly offered to assist us with an interview. For the Magazine they shared their work and opinions about the plans and policies in the United Arab Emirates.

“Place Dynamix is a specialist consultancy providing planning, design, landscape and other services from a user-focused approach that has the objective of creating great places and lasting value. We are primarily concerned with the creation of sustainable and memorable places and the focus of our work uses methodologies and other techniques from a wide range of disciplines to inform the creative process of making unique and successful places.” (



We were pleased to have Nadine from Placemaking contributing an article and interview. In our Magazine, she discusses her experience from working in the United Arab Emirates.

“Place Making is about using a human centric city planning and design approach to transforms spaces into places. It is an organization dedicated to helping developers and municipalities create and sustain liveable communities. Our pioneering approach help our clients transform their vision into vital vibrant and animated places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs using the blue ocean strategies.” (

Magazine - #01 United Arab Emirates

To learn more about the Urban Planning in Dubai read our Magazine featuring United Arab Emirates.