“The Coolest Place in Town”
A new kind of urban nature park has seen the light of day in Abu Dhabi. Gone are the water-consuming and soulless ‘Las Vegas landscapes’ of the past. Enter Al Fay Park – a new 27,500 m2 public park in downtown Abu Dhabi that signals a new kind of Middle Eastern city development: Driven by inclusive nature rather than iconic buildings.
Al Fay Park is the Mid-East’s first urban biodiversity park. With its biodiverse planting, optimized microclimate strategy, and inclusive social activities, the park is a paradigm shift in how to design and implement nature in the region’s dense megacities.
Biological, environmental and social benefits
Al Fay Park is constructed on barren sand in downtown Abu Dhabi. The park is specifically designed to provide both biological, environmental and social benefits to the city and its residents: By planting more than 2,000 native trees and bushes, biodiversity is strengthened for both plants and wildlife, which in turn maximizes natural cooling throughout the park, enhancing the public realm and the social life.
Through the park’s high density of trees, its soil design, its irrigation using solely recirculated water, and its sole use of native species, SLA’s design not only ensures that Al Fay Park has radically reduced its irrigation with 40 percent compared to conventional parks. The planting also attracts bees, pollinators, birds and animals, providing a lush and lively atmosphere in the middle of Abu Dhabi – even with a “100 percent birdsong guaranty”. Lastly, The park’s microclimate design naturally reduces temperature, cleans air pollution, stops sand infiltration and lowers traffic noise to create the best possible ‘social ecosystem’ for play, sports and leisure.
The optimized microclimate makes use of Al Fay Park possible even in the hot summer months (which is not normally possible). Its social activities include basketball, beach volley, soccer, playgrounds, fitness, climbing walls, minigolf, food trucks and informal outdoor seating areas for picnics with friends. A winding Forest Track allows for ‘secret’ and ‘wild’ nature experiences under the canopies – combining authentic ecosystems and natural habitats for wildlife with an open invitation for all to explore nature, interact with each other, and relax together in a peaceful, natural and serene setting.
An interdisciplinary design and research approach
The park design is devised through SLA’s inhouse biologists and planting experts’ yearlong research studies of the region’s unique nature and wildlife. A research published in SLA’s own internal plant book covering all the native plant species of the UAE, their optimal growing and living conditions, and how to integrate them into design.
“Al Fay Park is a new type of forest park in Abu Dhabi. Through our extensive research in the region’s flora and fauna, we create a new paradigm for how to think and design public realm in the Middle East. Al Fay Park is a celebration of Abu Dhabi’s native nature and culture and a prime example of how to maximize climate action, increase life-quality, and radically improve the biodiversity of an entire city – all on a former sand site.”
– Stig L. Andersson, Founding Partner in SLA
“The world-class design of Al Fay Park has created an environment that encourages community members to socially engage with one another while also connecting with the nature that surrounds them. We’re looking forward to witness the growth of this dynamic park that will benefit Abu Dhabi for future generations to come.”
– Latifa Al Hallami, Acting Director of Urban Growth, at Department of Municipalities and Transport.
All in all, Al Fay Park is a whole new way of co-thinking city, people and nature in the Mid-East. It is no coincidence that Al Fay Park is already known as being both socially and climatically ‘the coolest place in town.’
Name of the project: Al Fay Park
Project category: Public Landscape Project
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape architect
Architecture offices involved in the design: Parsons (Architect of Record)
Project location: Al Matlaʹi St, Jazeerat Al Reem. Abu Dhabi, UAE
Design year: 2020
Year Built: 2021