WOW — Where Oman Walks on display

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 An exhibition titled Public Spaces — Urban identities in Muscat, is being held at Bait Al Baranda Museum in association with the German University of Technology in Oman (GUTech). The exhibition that depicts tourism research, community based design and architectural sketches is open between 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm until Thursday.
On display are research and design projects from students and faculty members of GUTech in cooperation with the Scientific College of Design.
Malik al Hinai, Director of Bait al Baranda, said: “We are privileged to have an academy like GUtech exhibiting works by their talented students, who have worked very hard these past few months with an impressive and educational exhibition on urban planning entitled where Oman walks.”
The main topics include “Observations and drawings of Muttrah,” “Mega cruise tourism and its impact on the local community,” and “WOW — Where Oman Walks.”
In their observations, the students relate the research to city walkability around the world.
The research notes that certain features affect residents’ ability and willingness to move within their areas to varying degrees such as density, land-use mix, connectivity, pedestrian infrastructure, aesthetics and safety.
The students in their study focused on land-use mix, connectivity and pedestrian infrastructure in Al Khuwair, Athaiba and Al Hail.
The mosque according to the research is an important centre of the project as well as all neighbourhoods in Oman.
‘‘Naturally, commercial attachments are inclined to open close by,” finds out the research.
According to the study conducted by GUTech students, about 500 metres can be translated into a five-minute walk, or the length that people are willing to walk without resorting to other forms of transportation.
Presented by Dr Manuel Gutberlet, Dr Gustavo de Siqueira and Prof Gazmend Kalemi, the opening of the exhibition included talks and a panel discussion with experts from the academia and representatives from the Public Sector.
In Al Hail neighbourhood, the researchers noted that proper pedestrian infrastructure, safe crossing zones and pedestrian friendly spaces have not been provided.
According to their analysis, “There is an obvious lack of proper and safe pavements that people would enjoy walking on. People in the neighbourhood prefer driving instead of walking because of lack of space dedicated to pedestrians affecting their motivation to walk.”
They also noted that Al Hail neighbourhood has a large number of semi-active dead ends and accordingly their proposal sees beautification of the dead ends in addition to designing resting and shading elements as well as changing the flooring to differentiate the pedestrian areas from the streets.
For Athaiba, the students’ objective was to activate the region as a whole and the main aim was to interconnect the neighbourhood and form a network of safe and walkable pathways. It also looked into bike lanes, sidewalks, resting zones and shade to lure the people to walk.
While they proposed 11 metre wide roads, and designs for empty plots, the plan also included neighbourhood centre with football pitch, running track, shaded pathways with benches and trees to stimulate the residents to walk.
Design interventions for Al Khuwair sees a focus on commercial areas proposing a decrease in car traffic in favour of pedestrian walks and providing more safe and easy movement by shifting car parks behind houses and adding cafes and restaurants that invite both residents and visitors to the area.
Second intervention sees a proposal for a conversion of an empty plot into a park as well as a library, game zone in the park.

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