The Madinat al Irfan masterplan near Muscat, Oman.; The Madinat al Irfan masterplan near Muscat, Oman.;

Madinat al Irfan, Muscat

A 40-year plan for a new low carbon city district in Muscat, Oman

The award-winning Irfan Masterplan, which we have developed in collaboration with Allies and Morrison, outlines a 40-year plan for a new low carbon city district in Muscat, Oman. The 624-hectare site provides a new sustainable development model for urban development in the region.

We have helped our client, Omran, to develop a masterplan for future growth consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement and the PAS2080 low carbon infrastructure standard.

Placemaking and sustainability are the two pillars of the masterplan – fulfilling the aspiration for the new district to be a catalyst for change and a model for long-term resilience.

The design vision addresses the most critical challenges faced by Oman today - the need for economic diversification, public transport, responsible resource consumption and long term environmental protection.

The masterplan also promotes social sustainability and community building through its emphasis on walkability, dense mixed-use neighbourhoods, and the incorporation of heritage and culture in land use, open spaces and built form.

Project Summary

40 year plan

624hectare site

A blueprint for sustainable development

The development is structured around a dramatic undulating topography defined by network of dry river channels or Wadi which run the length of the site. The tall Wadi escarpments will be connected by a sequence of bridges linking a dense urban centre to the North, and villages to the south.

We worked with local people and stakeholders to ensure that the masterplan would support community development and incorporate robust design codes so that all future parts of the city are designed sensitively and in accordance with local culture and tradition.

Irfan provides a blueprint for sustainable development in the region.

Creating a comfortable external environment

Microclimate design input has shaped and informed the public realm, streetscape, urban massing, and building design of the masterplan which aims to enhance walkability and building energy performance over current regional practice. Use of outdoor spaces of the central areas was a key aspect influencing the development of the masterplan, phasing, and implementation strategies. Design concepts were supported by advanced analysis techniques including wind simulations, solar studies, thermal comfort analysis, and thermal comfort network analysis.

Landscape led design

The existing topography and Wadi network provide the basis upon which the masterplan has been developed. Arup’s landscape-led approach benefitted Irfan by introducing opportunities for urban food production and palm plantations, restoring historic water flows and ecology, and integrating views and landscape amenity throughout the new district. The central Wadi park creates 25km of park frontage, framing unforgettable views and increasing potential residential value.

Planning, governance and stewardship

A comprehensive set of parameter plans, design codes, masterplan guidelines and review processes were been developed to ensure the project’s long term success. A new model for implementation and governance has been proposed based on successful international models, and the creation of a new planning and development authority for Irfan has since been initiated by the client.

Responsible consumption

Energy consumption in Oman has doubled over the last decade due to expanding industrial and urban growth. Water use is also putting significant pressure on an already water-stressed region. Working in collaboration with utility providers in Oman, Irfan proposes innovative infrastructure strategies including photovoltiacs, district cooling, dense urban farms, reuse of treated water for irrigation and smart meters, to reduce demand for non-renewable resources. Energy and water use will be cut by half for a city of comparable size.

Public transport

Public transport is crucial if Irfan is to expand travel choice and become a walkable new district. Arup’s Transport Planning team helped incorporate human-scaled streets, compact neighbourhoods and mixed use urban blocks encourage walking. These interventions have since provided the impetus to propose a Muscat-wide public transport system and helps communicate the value of such an investment to key stakeholders. These measures, it is hoped will cut car dependency by half for a city of comparable size.

Appropriate design

Lessons from vernacular architecture suggest ways of designing to suit the local climate. The masterplan demonstrates the relevance of such passive design measures in combination with contemporary methods to create comfortable indoor and outdoor environments. Irfan’s buildings and open spaces will use features such as deep window reveals, overhangs, awnings, cornices, arcades, water features, trees and pavilions to significantly reduce the demand for mechanical cooling. User friendly and rigorous design codes ensure new buildings will build on Omani history even though they are contemporary.