Initial plans have been approved for Edward Cullinan Architects' (ECA) pioneering masterplan for a zero carbon town in the heart of Libya's eastern Green Mountain region - al Jabal al Akhdar.
Commissioned by the Organisation for Development and Administration Centres (ODAC) and the Libyan Company for Planning and Urban Development (LCPUD), this development is the first of its type in the Middle East and North Africa.
ECA said in a press release that they are collaborating with local practices, Libyan Engineering Office (LEO) and Al Mada.
Shahat Garden City - Madinat Hadaek Shahat - is located in the renowned Green Mountain region in eastern Libya, only a few kilometres south of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ancient city of Cyrene.
Emphasising the connection to the existing town of Shahat with carefully planned road links, the new, mixed-use development will create homes for 60,000 people over the 1500-hectare site.
Dense neighbourhood centres have been achieved through an abundance of mixed use and adaptable buildings that will allow for growth and change according to commercial and social pressures, with new civic buildings, schools, a university and a central botanical garden.
Rural smallholdings and wadi farms that help to integrate the farming culture of the local community surround these hilltop centres.
Surrounded by desert, the 270-mile (432 kilometres) stretch of coastline is an oasis for the country with a moist and cool climate, similar to parts of Italy and Southern France and unique within Libya.
During the summer, the region experiences a considerable diurnal shift between daytime and nighttime temperatures due to the elevation, continuous wind and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, while during the winter months there is a proven need for homes to be insulated.
The terrain is green with good agricultural land in the wadis and abundant scrub in more exposed areas, with areas of low trees hosting abundant and unique plant and animal life, as well as concealing many archaeological secrets yet to be discovered in their entirety. The project aims to set new standards for building design and public space in Libya without compromising on privacy and cultural imperatives.
Closely following the criteria of the Cyrene Declaration - the Libyan Government's 2007 vision for a sustainable future in the region - the Shahat Garden City masterplan has been formed from a deeper understanding of what is already there.
On the one hand the site is incredibly rich in important archaeology and unique biodiversity, yet it also consists of fragile agriculture, complex topography, modern infrastructure and a diversifying economy.
These special conditions offer opportunities to create a masterplan design for low carbon living through walk-able neighbourhoods, shaded streets, natural cooling and low energy buildings, wind farms and solar power fields, resulting in a significantly improved urban environment and a highly desirable place to live.
Edward Cullinan Architects have developed expert knowledge of the Green Mountain region, and it is due to their previous research in the area that they were appointed for this project.
In 2008/9 the practice worked with Ramboll on a study that contributed visitor strategies and urban design proposals for towns near the world-renowned Western Pentapolis.
These guidelines are currently under consideration by the Libyan authorities, with the Shahat Masterplan providing the realisation of their carefully considered recommendations before they are brought into Libyan planning law.
The project is due to start on site in 2011.