Reem Island; Reem Island;

Reem Downtown, Abu Dhabi

Embracing principles of walkability and human scale in one of Abu Dhabi’s key growth areas

A key growth area, Reem Island is a natural island rich with mangroves and a cooling sea breeze adjacent to the main capital island of Abu Dhabi.

The island supports the expansion of Abu Dhabi’s central business district. It marks a step change in the Emirate’s development approach with a sensitive vision for people and place, both natural and developed and a pace of change that is respectful of context.

Once complete, the new mixed use Reem Downtown urban quarter will have a residential population of around 27,000 people.

Working on behalf of the developer Tamouh, Arup was appointed to design the masterplan for Reem Downtown area, and to obtain concept and detailed masterplan approval from the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

As part of our response to the project scope, our Urban Designers and Landscape Architects’ embraced principles of walkability and human scale, and responsiveness to the island’s environmental assets.

Project Summary

650ha full size of the Reem Island development

105hasize of Reem Downtown area being developed

27,000people will live in Reem Downtown


Reem Downtown as seen from the direction of the Khalifa Bridge in Abu Dhabi

A human-centred, sustainable approach to planning and design 

The largely undeveloped site provided the team with an opportunity to design an exemplar masterplan to deliver an inclusive and liveable environment in this part of Abu Dhabi and beyond.

Our human-centred approach to development includes varied build typology and volumes, with heights decreasing towards the waterfront.

Designed to encourage public transport and active usage, we ensured green spaces are spread throughout with a burgeoning cycle network and the first completely pedestrianised public street in the Emirate.

We worked closely with the client to optimise and balance economic, social, cultural and environmental improvements for short and long term public benefits.

Five core development principles

We developed the plan with the client to deliver a human-centred new quarter, framed around five key principles:

1. Creating neighbourhoods of identity and character
2. Achieving a healthy and walkable place
3. Connecting to the local context and environment
4. Enabling a convenient and accessible development
5. Promoting a diverse and vibrant mixed community.

Measured against the Estidama rating system  

Our masterplan for Reem Island integrates the Abu Dhabi led sustainability framework Estidama (sustainability in Arabic) Pearl Community Rating System in which cultural sustainability features alongside economic, social and environmental aspects.

The overarching theme of the masterplan is a sensitive approach to people and place, both natural and developed, and a pace of change respectful of context.

This is highlighted by a novel approach in addressing the adjacent mangroves, allowing residents to engage with this natural asset.

Accessible, inclusive and connected; the Reem Downtown masterplan exceeds the requirements of local policy. We also embedded into our work many of the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Our collaborative approach, and extensive stakeholder engagement underpinned planning and design to create a liveable, workable and desirable Downtown for Reem Island.


An award winning design

In 2018, the Reem Downtown masterplan won an award at the MENA Green Building Awards. The masterplan was successful in the 'Sustainable Urban/Community Development Design of the Year' category. Reem Downtown was also shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute's Awards for Planning Excellence in 2017.

A rendering showing the re-naturalised eastern edge of the site and proposed mangroves experience centre A rendering showing the re-naturalised eastern edge of the site and proposed mangroves experience centre
A rendering showing the re-naturalised eastern edge of the site and proposed mangroves experience centre.