Urban Oman Research

The research project “Towards Sustainable Patterns of Urbanization” founded by The Research Council Oman (TRC) has lead to various collaborations with other international academic institutions. As co-investigator on the project in Oman, I have been coordinating these exchanges and channeling them into significant contributions to the larger research project while providing the students with academic frame-work, access and exposure.

The partner university of the German University of Technology in Oman, Rheinisch Westphälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH) in Germany, sends graduating students to Oman to work their Master thesis in urban design. Their work focusses on re-densification strategies within the large sub-urban sprawl of Muscat. Their thesis claims that urban density is key to measure urban sustainability in a city that expanded very fast and where large distances increase the demand for mobility and consumption of resources. 

Two diploma candidates at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH Studio Basel contribute to an urban portrait of Muscat and Oman. After a semester of analytical research they will produce an urban design based on the thesis that water had a particular role in the development of vernacular urban patterns. Due to its scarcity and the extreme climate, water was put to many uses by means of sophisticated “falaj” systems – a century old irrigation system, that shaped farming and settlement patterns, thereby forming a unique social and cultural landscape. A contemporary approach to urbanism in Oman re-addressing water could lead to a new, including, ecological and social urbanization pattern. 

Three Technische Universität Berlin students working on their Master thesis in urban management examine detailed processes of urbanization ranging from climate responsive urban design to rural urban linkages to good governance and land-use allocation in Oman. These written theses contribute to the research reports. Students at undergraduate level at GUtech learn research methods by applying Geo-Information Systems (GIS) while drawing maps and diagrams of research focal areas. 


Institution: Rheinisch Westphälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH)

Year: 2013 – present 

Type: Co-Examiner on MA Thesis Urban Design

Students: Two masters candidates


Institution: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH Studio Basel

Year: 2013 – present 

Type: Co-Examiner on Diploma Thesis Architecture

Students: Two diploma candidates


Institution: Technische Universität Berlin

Year: 2012

Type: Co-Examiner on MA Thesis Urban Management

Students: Three masters candidates


Institution: German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech)

Year: 2012–2013

Type: Elective Seminar on Geo Information Systems

Students: 36 Undergraduate students


Institution: German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech)

Year: 2011

Type: Consultancy / Research workshop 

towards the urban redevelopment of the historic core 

of Muscat, namely Muttrah

Students: 15 Undergraduate students

Land-use map of neighborhoods in Muscat, Oman
Land-use map of neighborhoods in Muscat, Oman

Sustainable Patterns of Urbanization in Oman

Since 2011 Aurel von Richthofen is Co-Investigator on the research project entitled "Towards Sustainable Patterns of Urbanization in Oman" funded by The Research Council Oman (TRC). He is a main contributor responsible for writing the report, editing the material, leading research assistants, coordinating symposia, conferences and exhibitions.

Parametric Urban Design Model / Qurm

Within the research project, we developed tools and methods to map these environmental, cultural and programmatic parameters into a cohesive urban design mechanism. This mechanism can be adapted and applied to any site in Oman or the Gulf region from the scale of a few houses to larger mixed use developments.

Scitech TV - Houses

Scitech TV documents the research project sponsored by the Research Council Oman "Towards Sustainable Patterns of Urbanisation in Oman" conducted by GUtech and SQU, featuring Aurel von Richthofen and Haitham Al Busafi as well as GUtech students.

Parametric Urbanism

CAD 4 @ GUtech 2010 - present In their last regular CAD semester students are introduced to parametric modeling. They elaborate protocols and definitions that can handle design relevant parameters and yield 3D geometries. Student evaluate the resulting shapes and re-interpreted them as architectural or urban forms. A special focus is laid upon the production of variations and repetitions. Once students master parametric design from scratch they use building information modeling software. Again, they work and update a digital model that can be enriched with information to produce technical drawing set, a rendering or a fabrication file.

Powers of ten

GIS mapping Oman in various scales / CAD 3 @ GUtech 2010 - present In their 3rd semester students work on a larger GIS database survey of the coastal urbanisation of Oman. Based on Eames' ideas of the power of ten, each student works on a quadrant at the level of the neighborhood, the city and the region. The data is added to the database, that reaches better and better resolution through the student contribution. The GIS database contains areal imagery, census data, 3D information. Students are encouraged to extract layer axonometric models from the database to visualise the complex urban interaction of the built environment, the topography, hydrology and environment.

Islamic Patterns

Islamic Patterns / CAD 1 @ GUtech 2010 - present The 1st CAD seminar introduces students to fundamental concepts of geometry and scale. Students start with analysing Islamic patterns. These traditional patterns are based on circles, squares and hexagons and can be found in many islamic ornaments throughout Oman. They entail basic vectorial transformations, such as translation, rotation, reflection and scale. While re-drawing the patterns in CAD, the students start to re-interpret the pattern in their drawing. Students resolve linear intersections and treat the drawing like an architectural drawing. Later the 2D CAD drawing is interpreted in 3D using extrusion and rotation. This process requires the addition of information. Students are then asked to re-introduce a scale and to read their shapes against a possible programs.

Exeter Gulf Conference 2012

EXETER, Jul. 2012, Venue: Exeter Gulf Conference, Organizer: Center for Gulf Studies – university of Exeter. Title of the paper presented: “Integrated Tourism Projects and the impact of urbanization in Oman.”

Gulf Research Meeting 2012

This urban form is at the same time the “result” of demographic and economic constraints and the cultural “product” of careful negotiation and aesthetic politics. e urban form, manifested in an expansive urban sprawl, radically and irreversibly changes the environment in which the majority of the Omanis live. ese circumstances condition the production of visual culture. e emergence of visual culture through the deployment of urbanism is far from coincidental, and yet distinctively Omani, as the process sets itself apart from the ashy development in other GCC countries.