GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
von Richthofen
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Models for sustainable urbanization in Oman
Paper Proposal Text :
Short introduction
Aurel von Richthofen studied architecture in Switzerland and the USA. He holds a Dipl. Arch. from ETH Zurich, and a M. Arch. from Princeton University. He is a registered architect in Berlin and Zurich. His architectural practice aurelVR focuses on analyzing, interpreting and designing architecture and urbanism with means of parametric design tools. His current research project sponsored by The Research Council Oman [TRC] examines sustainable patterns of urbanization in Oman. Aurel is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism [ISU] at TU Braunschweig, Germany. His PhD research focusses on a locally adapted model of sustainable urbanism for Oman. Aurel is currently working as an assistant professor of architecture at the German University of Technology [GUtech] in Muscat, Oman. He attended the GRM in 2011 (Modernization and Socio-economic Changes) and 2012 (Visual Culture). Information on his current research can be found here:

The main motivation to participate in the Doctoral Symposium is to present the interim findings of the PhD research such as case-studies on urbanization in Oman, locally derived criteria for and a parametric model of sustainable urbanization in Oman to an interdisciplinary audience and to gain useful insights for the completion of the dissertation. The symposium will also provide an excellent platform to discuss methodological strategies to implement a locally adapted model of sustainable urbanization in Oman and to transfer this model to other countries in the Gulf region and/or other disciplines outside of architecture and urban planning. Finally, the symposium promises to be the adequate format to formulate a joint agenda on sustainability in the Gulf region to which the PhD research should contribute.

Urbanization processes in Oman, parametric urban model, sustainable urban design manual

Oman has seen a steep population growth correlating to a high urbanization rate over the last 45 years. Since the opening of the country in 1970 the population multiplied 6 times from 500.000 to over 3 million inhabitants (Oman census 2013). In 2014 over 80% of the population lived in urbanized areas (Ministry of Housing Oman). While the surface of the country compares to the surface of Italy, the developable areas are limited and coincide with agricultural land, vulnerable ecosystems and heritage sites. The current urban development is still based on diminishing fossil energy resources. Population growth, limited land resources and transition to a post-fossil economy pose mayor challenges to sustainable urbanization in Oman.

Urban sustainability can be defined as a frame work of social, economic, ecological, physical and political dimensions contributing to a lasting and resourceful urban development (UN millennium goals 2000, 2012). All dimensions need to be rooted in local, social, cultural and climatic conditions in order to be translated into an applicable model of sustainable urbanization for the specific region. So far no model of sustainable urbanization has been developed for Oman or the Gulf Region. Current models used in the region must be considered imports since their underlying frame works have been applied with little consideration of the local dimensions above (Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision, Green Dubai Guidelines 2010). To date no model of sustainable urbanization has been developed for Oman specifically, despite its unique characteristics and rapid process of urbanization. Urban sustainability for Oman must be reassessed with a focus on local Omani conditions.

Urbanization has a direct impact on society by means of structuring the living patterns of its inhabitants, facilitating certain behaviors and inhibiting others. At the same time the process of urbanization reflects on (imposed) conditions the citizens are subject to. Urbanization can be understood as the expression of a society’s inherent cultural values, climatic needs and economic desires. Understood as cybernetic models urbanization processes feature feed back loops between the production of urban space and the emergence of societal patterns. In Oman the impact of urbanization on the society and the environment is particularly strong, since the development of the city is a very young phenomenon and every Omani is directly involved in the process via a state-sponsored housing scheme.

The PhD research focussed on six urban case-studies in three regions of Oman ranging from the Batinah Coastal Strip, the Interior and Sharqiya and the Coastal epicenters. These case-studies stand for the larger urbanization process in the country and highlight that the present urbanization process is not sustainable at any dimension named above (Adriana Allen 2009). Contrasted with a parametric model of sustainability developed within the PhD research and providing variable alternatives to the present conditions in forms of quantifiable and quantifiable urban morphologies the mechanisms at stake can be geared towards a more sustainable urbanization. Through qualification and quantification of urbanization processes a design manual for sustainable urbanization in Oman can be established.