Dubai masterplan 2020

A summary


Dubai is an car-dependant city and the city design is lacking a sense of uniformity. Pedestrians are unable to walk freely between most places (as opposed to most cities today).


Making people prioritised: reducing car-dependancy through public transport solutions and more focus on walkability/cycling with a TOD-friendly built environment.

The Dubai Master Plan was created in the middle of the 21st century, with the goal of compact growth through development of a new road system, creating a new town centre, and utilising the traditional euclidean zoning (single-use zoning) resulting in large land areas being zoned for one use.

After the construction of one bridge across Dubai Creek, which completed in 1963, urban development started to blossom in Deira. But later, the development expanded towards Dubai and the areas close to the bridge, in accordance to the compact growth strategy. Just a few years later Dubai started its grand scheme to expand the city border with developments along the main road connecting to Abu Dhabi located in the south-west, and thus a linear city was created.


High-Rise Buildings

Population (region)

Land Area (


The current plan includes the Dubai Emirate territories and sea areas 12 nautical miles out in the sea. It is said to be a flexible plan which stresses a sustainable and competitive approach to achieve a city of excellence. What an city of excellence is, is however not explained. Furthermore it is stated that 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.” The past years, the government has pushed a lot of investment on the transportation and infrastructure sector. Like many cities have been focusing on lately, Dubai is trying to reduce the car-dependancy and promote public transportation. However, the capacity on the existing metro lines is limited and the expansion and investment on more public transportation has became an important task.

There are many challenges which have been found through the identification and analysis of the existing situation. Based on these challenges, but also opportunities, the municipality 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.

The preferred spatial growth scenario was the compact city. The scenario is well fitted Dubai and has huge potential for betterment of neighbourhood facilities and public places. It also makes use of land more efficiently rather than spreading out the buildings and continuing the the urban sprawl which started all the way back to the late 1970s. Thus, the walkability and TOD directed towards creating stronger and more vibrant neighbourhoods is stressed. This is essentially a way to create a more environmental and sustainable Dubai.

Dubai Masterplan 2020 Strategic Land Use Plan


Like other big cities along the Gulf, Dubai is a city which have developed in a linear way. Such strip developments have, without doubt, enlarged the car-dependancy in the city. In order to access daily needs, residents drive just a few minutes. By walking this would have been another story, and even cycling is quite restricted unless you are up for a dangerous or ‘illogical’ ride. The city that once had neighbourhood centres sprawled over large areas of land and was pedestrian-oriented has been pushed away. Pedestrians and cyclists face many physical barriers and have to walk and bike long distances to get their daily needs. However, the city is aiming to restore some of the old qualities and increase number of cycling routes. To date, Dubai’s greatest achievement regarding walkability is the opening of Dubai metro in 2009.

For more information read the Magazine.

Dubai City Plan 2020 Walkability
Dubai City Plan 2020 Cycling


For a summary of Dubai 2020 masterplanning process: Urban Masterplan 2020 Summary
For an overview of the Road and Transport Authority’s strategy plan see: Road and Transport Authority Strategy Plan
For a brief introduction to the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 see: 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 sharing their work and opinions about the urban frameworks 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 to our Magazine, discussing 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, have a look at the exclusive Magazine featuring United Arab Emirates.