Urban planner behind Abu Dhabi’s development has died aged 98


Obituary: The architect who helped shape Abu Dhabi

A city planner who designed much of downtown Abu Dhabi for Sheikh Zayed at the start of the union has died aged 98.

Dr Abdulrahman Makhlouf planned the capital’s grid system as he sat on the floor with the country’s founding father at Qasr Al Bahr, the Sea Palace.

The result was a modern city built into a Manhattan-style grid with a striking cornice and dotted with modernist-era wonders.

His family confirmed on Tuesday that he was deceased. The National was able to visit his studio office several months ago to document his designs.

Sheikh Zayed told me … ‘we want a capital for Abu Dhabi, and we have to get there as soon as possible’

Dr Abdulrahman Makhlouf, interview 2013

Dr Makhlouf, an Egyptian with a degree in architecture from Cairo University and a doctorate in Germany, first arrived in Abu Dhabi in October 1968.

He came to work for Sheikh Zayed after completing projects in Saudi Arabia and responded to a cable and a job offer from a UN technical office official who supported the emirate.

He fell in love with the city and never left.

“I said yes. I had already worked in cities in Saudi Arabia, like Mecca, Medina and Jeddah. So I knew the Gulf,” he said. The National in 2013. “My father’s name was also famous in the Islamic world, Sheikh Hassanian Mohammed Makhlouf, Mufti of Egypt. So my name sounded familiar.

“His Highness was away from Geneva when I arrived. By the time he arrived I had already done a survey of the area and made rough sketches of how the city should be developed. I headed for the airport when I heard he was coming and I was possibly the only Arab man standing in a tailored suit there. So when Sheikh Zayed noticed me and shook my hand and greeted me, he asked one of his advisers, “Who is this man? “

Dr Makhlouf said Sheikh Zayed had been informed that he was “the expert town planner, the one the United Nations mentioned”.

“I am always in an elegant suit. It’s not worth seeing in public without a tie.

Dr Makhlouf came to replace Katsuhiko Takahashi, from Japan, who was Sheikh Zayed’s first town planner and whose plan supported Dr Makhlouf.

“I thought it was smart. It had the straight roads that we still see today.

The end result was a linear plan for the island, with Airport Road as the main backbone, which is largely unchanged today.

In the upper part of the island towards the ledge, which is wider, the pattern is a grid.

In our 2013 interview, Dr Makhlouf recalled asking the late president why he preferred the straights and quickly realized that he was a man who went fast.

“Sheikh Zayed said to me, ‘I know where I am, and I know where I want to go, so why not use a straight line between the two points?

“We want a capital for Abu Dhabi, and we have to get there as quickly as possible.”

Updated: December 14, 2021, 13:19


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