The Desert of Possibilities

For his diploma project – entitled ‘The City of Possibilities’ – Parisian photographer Etienne Malapert tackled a pertinent topic: the construction of Masdar City in the middle of the UAE desert.

Malapert explains: In 2006, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to undertake the kind of crazy project of building an entire city in the middle of the desert. Masdar City’s first aim is to reach 0% CO2 emissions and be recognized as a “Green City”. London architectural firm Norman Foster designed this huge project, at a time of growing environmental concerns, especially energy consumption and pollution. Despite holding a major share in global oil and gas production, the UAE wish to change their image to showcase green technology and so-called ‘clean energy’.

Located 25 km south from Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is destined to be the first self- ecological city in the world within the next 15 years, with a population of 50,000 and a business hub of 1,500. Currently, only a few buildings have already emerged from the sand, including a scientific university, research laboratories and offices of major multinational corporations such as Siemens. The country launched the Masdar project as part of an economic policy shift called Economic Vision 2030, based on renewable energy and complex denser made research and developments.

Following this trend, the government, in collaboration with the UAE Oil Company, has invested nearly $20 billion in the project. The purpose of this commercial association is to establish the UAE as a pioneer in renewable energy sector to complement its current status of ‘major oil exporter’. This 21st century beginning forces humankind into a mutation stage of its evolution. Despite the need to shift paradigms towards greener economies and energy transition, no one can ignore this contradiction in terms: the world’s flagship for green urbanism is spirited forward by one of the world’s largest producers of ‘black gold’.

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