LAND, URBAN FORM, AND POLITICS: A Study on Dubai's Housing Landscape

  • Asim Khanal

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


There is a general perception among urban scholars that Dubai is built for the welloff. The construction of mega developments, high-rises, superlative architecture, waterfront developments, and island projects, portrays a longstanding narrative that Dubai is a luxury destination. Nevertheless, there are other facets of Dubai's that are not well represented in urban studies literature. This study explores the evolution and the transformation of Dubai's residential built-landscape in the last century. In particular, we ask: What are the different patterns and forms that are prevalent in Dubai's housing landscape; and what are the major driving forces or factors that influenced Dubai's urban transformation and its current landscape? How affordable is Dubai to its residents? Does Dubai's built landscape accommodate a large spectrum of income classes? What policies could contribute to the development of a better built landscape? Geospatial mapping reveals nine distinct and diverse residential patterns in Dubai: the historic city- al fahidi (formerly al bastakia'ya); the organic dense city; apartment complexes and midrises; labor housing complexes; suburban style, single family communities; gated communities; emerging downtown corridor, tower complexes and waterfronts; island and off-shore developments. The identified patterns are presented under six thematic developmental periods stretching from 1900 – 2016 to highlight the major contributing forces that shaped Dubai's housing landscape. The second section of the paper explored whether or not Dubai's housing landscape is affordable for its residents. Data from the public authorities such as Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC) and Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) is used to conduct quantitative analysis of rental records.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorKhaled AlAwadi (Supervisor)


  • Dubai
  • Urban Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Geospatial Mapping
  • Affordable Housing.

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