Sheikh Abdullah honours family of the Japanese architect who designed Abu Dhabi

The late architect's legacy includes the city's green spaces, grid system and its Corniche

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, meeting the family of the late Abu Dhabi architect, Dr Katsuhiko Takahashi, in Japan / Courtesy Wam
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The story of the sheikh and the Japanese planner is a piece of Abu Dhabi’s lore: the sheikh of Abu Dhabi sketching plans for the city into the sand with a camel stick, laying out his plans for a future capital city.

Katsuhiko Takahashi was the Japanese planner who gave the city its wide roads, Corniche and greenery.

He was the city’s first town planner and arrived in 1967 when Abu Dhabi was a town of 40,000.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and son of Sheikh Zayed, met Dr Takahashi’s children and grandchildren in Tokyo in Japan on Tuesday to honour their father’s contribution to the UAE.

He presented a letter of thanks to the family. The sheikh and the family reminisced over old photographs of their fathers in the late 1960s, blueprints and master plans.

Dr Takahashi passed away last summer.

The meeting was part of an ongoing Year of Zayed initiative by the Abu Dhabi government to honour those who played a seminal role in the development of the Emirates. Some of Dr Takahashi’s relatives travelled from Hiroshima, Boston and Montreal for the reunion.

The reunion took a year and a half to organise.


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Abu Dhabi was unknown to the outside world in 1967. When Dr Takahashi booked his ticket, the Pan American Airlines office asked if Abu Dhabi was a new town in the Caribbean.

Dr Takahashi met with Sheikh Zayed every day. He remembered the sheikh as a “brilliant, broad minded decision maker” who allowed him to speak frankly as they developed plans for a city of 600,000.

"I stepped into Abu Dhabi in the middle of its transformation from a fishing village to a modern city," he told The National in a 2008 interview.

He later called his year in Abu Dhabi the "most important, most personal, most instructive and rewarding time in my life”.