More than 200,000 buildings now have unique address plaques. They are also equipped with QR codes linked to location and nearby destination information.
to the 1960s, Abu Dhabi was a Bedouin culture. The illiteracy rate is very high, and for many, the new system is confusing at best. Promoting the system and teaching residents how to use it is essential, and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipal Affairs has implemented a major public awareness campaign and website called onwani.ae. “Onwani” means “My address” in Arabic. The future pedestrian wayfinding system will also pose challenges for some residents. Although maps are being developed, many residents will have to be trained to use them. “It’s the kind of thing we take for granted,” adds Ayers. “But it’s a whole other layer of comprehension for a society that is largely unfamiliar with using this kind of information.” Selbert acknowledges the irony of his firm—known internationally for its design of iconic landmarks such as the LAX Gateway—working
on a project that essentially boils down to the most basic of urban communication, the street sign. “It’s not a computer or even a TV,” he muses. “It’s a sign. But these simple signs are going to change the world for a lot of people.” The government of Abu Dhabi estimates that in one year it will save a minimum of $100 million from the increased efficiencies created by having street signs and addresses, in addition to the inestimable benefit of lives saved by improved public safety and police and ambulance response. The system will boost tourism, improve delivery of services, make it easier to travel, and reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions through decreased travel times and fuel consumption. “This was definitely not a highdesign project,” says Selbert. “But it tells you how much design can have a strong impact on a culture. That’s what makes design so important…it really does matter.”
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38 — eg magazine
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