The United Arab Emirates has been overrun with a surge of costly and extravagant developments over the past decade including the Palm Islands and Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Now, a 125,000-square-metre park in Abu Dhabi will join them—but this isn't your average mega-development.
The beautiful design is credited to Thomas Heatherwick, the imaginative and innovative architect – most famous for designing the Olympic torch for London 2012, and the new London Routemaster buses – who has a rich history of implementing the natural surroundings of the site's locations into his projects. Here, he uses the distinctive texture of a dry and cracked desert as the façade for the canopied design that shades the park.
Proposed for completion in 2017, Al Fayah Park will boast a seemingly endless network of canopies that double as walkable terraces. Additionally, they will house a vibrant microcosm of life underneath complete with cafés, community gardens, a public library, recreational spaces, as well as public pools and saunas. "These elevated pieces [will also] create a perforated canopy of partial shade under which a lush garden can grow, protected from the hot desert sun," Heatherwick notes.
However, despite the surplus of growth and wealth that has been flowing into the UAE, there is still a shortage and dependence on water that strangles these projects and makes them both costly and inefficient. Therefore, finding a way to create a sustainable model for the park was a challenge for Heatherwick.
Consequently, he elected to abandon the traditional park design that relies too heavily on irrigation to water its countless blankets of grass. Instead, Heatherwick opted for a natural solution that will limit the evaporation of the park's water by reducing the intensity of the sun.
The park's design is not only beautiful, it is highly functional as it blends the natural landscape into a self-sustaining simulacrum of itself. "Instead of denying the presence of the desert that the city is built on, we set ourselves the task of making a park out of the desert itself," thus, protecting the integrity of the desert's most natural resource—its beauty.
Images: Thomas Heatherwick.