Sunday, 21 July 2013

Small ideas to boost the urban appeal of Muscat

The perception of a city is influenced by many factors such and transport and traffic, cleanness, architecture, green areas.  One of the most important factors is a general visual appeal of public areas and their suitability for leisure use. This stands for shopping streets, walking areas, parks, squares/piazzas and terraces.

While the first impression and appeal of Muscat and its mountainous backdrop is not bad, it can be significantly improved by some projects that could be considered along the current major infrastructure spending. Here are a few ideas:

Qurum beach & the “Love road” –  Qurum beach needs a general re-thinking and a revamp. Period.
I am not only thinking about replacing the corroded hay umbrellas and cleaning up the beach.  It is the most centrally located beach. The rocky bay on the right it confers a dramatic and interesting feel. Unfortunately the whole ares just does not connect organically to the city. The public which rather drives around at 5km/h on the beach road then take possession of the space and populate it for leisure activities. Would be an exciting master planning exercise to solve this disconnect and create an active beachfront along the so called “Love Road”. Some ideas would be to activate the lower level of the beach along the road for pedestrian access, creating some bays that are accessible by stairs from the road. The other would be to minimize the traffic there and create more pedestrian areas on the "bridge".  The creation of two main attractions on both ends of the road could activate the areas in between. There could be water features and/or small squares with benches, public space furniture etc. Using the marshlands behind the coffee shops as a paddling lake can also add some appeal to the area.

Shatti Al Qurum shopping area – The area between Oasis by the Sea and Jawarat al Shatti is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It is almost the place you want to be on a mild breezy evening, to have a coffee, ice cream or just a walk on the beach. There is so much additional potential in that area which could be unlocked by just moving the parking out towards the tennis courts. (Maybe a -1+2 level parking house could be considered.) The space created could be converted in a blend of green and paved areas for restaurant terraces, water features, and space for events and entertainment.

Mutrah Cornishe - is another main attractions of the city which yet has to step up from its past. Again a higher emphasis could be given to pedestrian areas (car traffic can be reduced significantly, eventually diverted trough a road at the back of the Souq). A more uniform and nicely designed retail outlet signage that is better suited to the architecture of the area could give a major boost to the appeal of this strip. In fact the signage issue could be a nice project on its own applicable for the whole city.

[On a side note I have just seen at the Muscat Hills Caddie Shack two terribly looking Ruwi like signage boards indicating ‘Coffee Shop’ above the entrance to the restaurant and Sports ‘Equipment Retailer’ over the entrance to the Pro Shop. Apparently it’s a municipal rules.  I know the Caddie Shack is all temporary but I’d like to see what Intercontinental will have to say when the hotel will be ready and they will want to put this signage on the new clubhouse.]

Seeb cornishe – another totally underutilized area, which massive catchment areas and already high traffic.

Urban master planning is a complicated discipline but there is plenty of expertise available among the engineering and design consultancies present in ME.  It’s time for the city to take this to a next level.

PS: If you can think of any similar public space, which once improved could have a massive impact on the appeal of the city, drop it in the comments. Thanks.

Pictures are sourced from: Tripadvisor, Maqwa on Fotki and Andy in Oman