The first day felt like culture shock. The buildings are beautiful here, and they look so different from anything I've ever seen, anywhere. My brain really struggled to believe what it was seeing. Is this real? What reality am I in?
|Masdar student apartments. See the solar panels peeking out over the roof?|
|A computer generated graphic of the original vision for a part of the city.|
|My friend Ilham moving in.|
|Students walking toward the library|
I keep telling people that it feels like I'm living in a psychology experiment. Every time I flip a light switch in the living room and the faucet in the bathroom starts running, or I desperately push all buttons on the stove to try to turn on a burner, I can't help looking over my shoulder and wondering if there's a scientist observing my behavior and reactions in this strange environment. Especially when I go around pressing all the walls to see if there are more secret doors, or I stare up in bewilderment at the kitchen cabinet shelves that are so tall and far off the ground that I doubt the tallest human on earth could use them effectively. Or the time I was working in the lab, a short alarm went off on the loudspeakers, and a male voice said something official-sounding in Arabic with a French accent.
The Masdar Institute is the first part of the city to be completed, it includes the library, laboratory buildings, and the student residences. And all these buildings fit together in a cube. And this cube is located in the middle of what is still a giant, flat, dusty, deserty construction site as progress on other phases of the city continues. It's quite a mind flip to be in such a strangely beautiful environment, then look a window and see flat dusty landscape stretching out to the horizon. It really feels like I'm living in a spaceship in the middle of the desert.
|Masdar from the outside.|
|The library is on the right, student residences on the left.|
|The bedroom in my apartment. See? It looks like a spaceship. Actually, this is quite a lot of space for a bedroom on a spaceship.|
|Workers outside at night. I swear I can wake up at any time and look outside and see someone working on something.|
In fact, the barrenness of the landscape contrasted with the lush architecture inside, plus the whole vision of building a completely renewable energy city makes me feel like I'm living in a science fiction novel.
|The library by moonlight. I swear I took this picture myself.|
|The view from my apartment window. On the right is the 10 MW solar photovoltaic array. On the left is the site where all the construction waste is carefully sorted into piles for reuse and recycle.|
|Sometimes this place just doesn't seem real.|
|View from the library window. Construction materials and wasteland.|
Here's the construction vehicle:
Compare to the following. (At least the lab environment here is a bit more civil than Mos Eisley.)