Sabkha Project

ahypotheticaloffice + MERGe


The Sabkha Project— Measures of Change


The Sabkha: an inter-tidal buffer-zone between sand and sea, these salt-flats stretch the length of the UAE’s coast. This primordial landscape is an intrinsic part of the UAE’s identity & heritage; it speaks a story that predates nationhood. The Sabkha is also the source of the nation’s wealth; responsible for the resources of its spectacular development.

It is time to look beyond narratives of sensational development; beyond the 50 years of city-building, to the 7000 years of landscape-shifting. To contextualise change, we must return to the Sabkha. By deepening the time-frame and thickening the coastline, considers development in ecological time, not a human one.


To do so, we must talk about architecture & urbanism through landscape & ecology. By tracing the costal stratifications of two coexisting yet conflicting ecosystems; the Sabkha and the city. Where development hardens and stagnates the shifting morphology of our fragile coasts, our inquiry will look to the ‘thick line’ of the Sabkha; a space where borders dissolve into zones.

We will redirect the focus towards this overlooked natural resource; proposing strategies beyond extraction towards coexistence. The Sabkha can be both a tool to measure and an agent to propose alternatives for architecture, urbanism, and development in the UAE.


Why should we limit ourselves to replicated typologies and forms devoid of context? Scientists have long recognised the importance of the Sabkha, but this has done little to inform the region’s architecture & urbanism. We must look to the Sabkha to exploit the richness of the UAE’s local environmental vernacular.

At a time when environmental challenges are perilously destabilising, the Sabkha can be an international resource for a contemporary architectural response. By imagining alternative urban and architectural strategies coexisting with the landscape, we can propose domains of speculation that re-imagine the built environment. At the Sabkha, fact and fiction can meet to establish a new common ground. To uncover the alternative narratives of the UAE waiting to be told.