This comprehensive Urban Design, Visioning, Design Standards document includes hardscape, plant lists, and water features for Public Space, Plaza’s, Markets, Parks, Streetscapes and Waterfronts.

Hardscape is defined as – Ground plane surfacing primarily used to accommodate circulation needs and public gathering/assembly; material is generally made from a manufacturing or fabricating process including natural stone like Porphyry.

As a nation in the midst of planning for future development, Abu Dhabi has the opportunity to create world class cities that embody worldwide best practices while enhancing the culture and heritage of the Emirate. In anticipation of preparing a strategy for developing its two major cities, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, into destinations with world-class appeal the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) retained peter j. smith & company to prepare an urban design strategy.

Abu Dhabi Urban planning conference illustration resized 600The resulting Public Realm Design Manual (PRDM) is a technical and policy guide for development of all parks, streetscapes, coastal areas and public places. To facilitate understanding of the public realm, the manual breaks the public realm into a manageable system of typologies. Design guidelines for each typology link all of the elements of the public realm into the experience of the resulting monumental city.


The ‘public realm’ in this case includes all exterior places, linkages and built form elements that are physically and/or visually accessible. These elements can include streets, pedestrian ways, bikeways, bridges, plazas, nodes, squares, transportation hubs, gateways, parks, waterfronts, natural features, view corridors, landmarks and building interfaces.

Specific hardscape design standards vary by typology and mention the following: 

• Should define the central gathering area and special features with unit paving

• Should use permeable unit paving material of natural stone and at a scale that responds to the use of the area

• Should use large format paving and or motifs in primary gathering spaces and smaller format paving in small seating spaces

• Should use hardscape features that reflect natural and traditional materials

• Should use hardscape to define primary entrances

• Should use hardscape features that are durable and low-impact and do not detract from the heritage site

• Should use high-quality natural stone


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The PRDM is one piece of an Emirate-wide planning effort. The Manual builds on other planning documents in a continued effort to shape the development future of Abu Dhabi. Central to the planning efforts in Abu Dhabi are the 2030 Plans which establish a vision for future development of the Emirate.

The 2030 Plans regulate the pattern of urban expansion to balance economic, social and environmental priorities in a sustainable manner. The plans emphasize human-scale development within a pedestrian friendly environment. In particular, the 2030 Plans establish a framework for public open space that preserves the unique ecology of the Emirate and prevents sprawling community development. Using these plans as guides, the PRDM develops specific strategies for enhancing the public realm. The PRDM also maintains the principles of one of the fundamental concepts of planning in Abu Dhabi: Estidama. The Arabic word for sustainability, Estidama is an initiative to incorporate sustainable principles into every aspect of planning in the Emirate.


Porphyry’s composition determines its high compression strength, resistance to stains, slip resistance, and high freeze/thaw ratings.  The stone is the most popular paver in Europe, and is favored for its flexibility in design, beauty, durability and low maintenance requirements. ADA Compliant Porphyry pavers are also adaptable to a permeable paving set. The stone is by far one of the most durable pavers in the world.  These materials are available from Milestone Imports.   –