Kabul Urban Design Framework

Architect: Sasaki

Owner: Afghanistan Ministry of Urban Development and Land

Location: Kabul, Afghanistan

Today, more than 20 years into building a new civil society in Afghanistan, the country’s capital is poised to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Influenced by the intersection of cultures, ecological systems, and political currents, Kabul has long developed organically, leaving many without access to infrastructure or services. This plan sets a vision for Kabul that is sustainable and resilient and helps realize the promise of a burgeoning democracy.

Organized around a citywide framework for urban development and growth as well as corridor designs for two of Kabul’s iconic roads, the plan tackles a host of issues facing the city. In addition, it stretches beyond physical design to affect Kabul’s social fabric, addressing women in the city, higher education opportunities, and the conservation of its culture.

The design-driven agenda faces significant challenges at the metropolitan scale due to the city’s informal development and its population growth of more than 2 million people in just 10 years. The plan’s ambitious growth strategy shifts development away from environmentally sensitive aquifers, restores an agricultural belt, and identifies new locations for educational and economic investment. Shaping any development is a series of typologies the team developed that offer context-sensitive design guidelines for the whole city. This blend of site-specific design and guidance affects other areas of the plan, including ways to integrate the informal settlements that exist beyond the city’s borders.

Plans for commercial corridors along Dar ul-Aman, Afghanistan’s most symbolic road, and Massoud Boulevard, which connects the city to its airport, respond to the surrounding context and cultural history. Along Dar ul-Aman, the team repositions the important six-kilometer corridor as an urban boulevard with three distinct districts, each with their own streetscape and programmatic focus. Given its status as the gateway to the city, Massoud Boulevard represents a chance to demonstrate that investment in social infrastructure and the preservation of social anchors can quickly regenerate neighborhoods.

In total, the plan lays out a vision for the forward-thinking city Kabul can become. Its implementation represents boundless opportunities for millions of Afghans for generations to come.

"The Kabul Urban Design Framework is amazingly ambitious (the shaping of a city of 4 million people with an immense history) and, simultaneously, modest. The framework manages big moves and small. The broad strokes provide connectivity to the region with a sensitivity to the ecology (aquifers), economy (agriculture) and society (public space). The details focus on weaving together existing nodes and fabrics to reinterpret the potential of Kabul as a city for its growing populations." - Jury comment

Additional information

Level Infrastructure


Carol Ross Barney, FAIA (Chair), Ross Barney Architects, Chicago, Illinois

Jenn Maigret, AIA, Ply+, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Nichole Wiedemann, AIA, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

Katherine Darnstadt, AIA, Latent Design, Chicago, Illinois

David Kunselman, AIA, City of Seattle, Seattle, Washington

Image credits

Kabul Urban Design Framework-06

Sasaki Associates, Inc.

Kabul Urban Design Framework-05

Sasaki Associates, Inc.

Kabul Urban Design Framework-03

Sasaki Associates, Inc.

Kabul Urban Design Framework-04

Sasaki Assoicates, Inc.

Kabul Urban Design Framework-02

Sasaki Associates, Inc.