Thomas Heatherwick unveils
"sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi

Al Fayah Park by Thomas Heatherwick is a "sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi

News: British designer Thomas Heatherwick has revealed plans to create a cavernous public park in Abu Dhabi beneath a fragmented canopy resembling the cracked surface of the Arabian desert.

Occupying a 125,000 square-metre site, Thomas Heatherwick's Al Fayah Park will provide play areas, picnic areas, vegetable gardens and cafes, interspersed with a variety of plants and flowers native to the Gulf.

A series of columns will support the floating roof canopy, beneath which the designer will also add a public library, a mosque, an outdoor cinema, and indoor and outdoor performance spaces that can be used for live music, festivals and community events.

Al Fayah Park by Thomas Heatherwick is a "sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi

"Al Fayah Park incorporates a series of very special column structures, like the cracked pieces of a desert surface, which gently raise to form a three-dimensional landscape across the site," said Heatherwick. "These elevated pieces create a perforated canopy of partial shade under which a lush garden can grow, protected from the hot desert sun."

He continued: "This sunken oasis becomes a landscape of plants, mature trees and a cluster of public recreational spaces. The 20-metre-high shaded garden is conceived as a place for families to gather and picnic, as well as a place for learning and festivals."

"By creating partial shade for plants, the canopy reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation, improving the park's energy efficiency and sustainability. Whilst providing shade in the daytime, the elevated plates also become a network of unique meeting places in the cooler evening hours."

Al Fayah Park by Thomas Heatherwick is a "sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi

Construction is set to begin on the project later this year, with the park scheduled to open in early 2017. It will be funded by non-profit organisation the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

"The park will incorporate a plethora of activities and unique features that support the foundation’s key pillars of education, arts, culture, heritage and health," said Iman Khouri, a spokesperson for the foundation.

"It will be reminiscent of traditional design inspired by the UAE desert, but thoroughly modern in its presentation that will attract both local residents and international visitors alike. As such, it puts Abu Dhabi among the world’s leading global cities for innovative outdoor public spaces," he added.

  • micanichi

    Does it have to be so literal? Looks like it would be more at home in Disney World.

    • boooo!

      1) Disney World is awesome. 2) This is a park, why not have some fun with it?

    • Kevin

      Poor, shallow design = literal. It will look like an under-maintained, bankrupt theme park the day after it opens. Typical of the designer.

      • Vic Stapel

        I am sure it will NOT due the numerous ponds and plants that will be prolific. It sure will beat plain boring sand dunes.

  • Leiurus

    Parks and amusement parks are different things.

  • Kai

    WOW! Having a walk in this park in AbuDhabi under 40-50ºC, mmm it doesn’t sound very attractive.
    I used to live in the Emirates and I’m sure nobody would stay in the roof, maybe in winter time.

  • vikarch

    There is more than plenty of desert five mins out of the city! Why bring more “desert” in the heart of Abu Dhabi. Why create a concrete canopy if you can use dynamic mobile structures. Shouldn’t the city have green spaces instead of this ABANDONED AIRPORT TERMINAL looking site. How did the image of people walking on the vast plain roofs ever sell the project – they all look like they are getting deep fried in the scorching sun, girl laying in the sand reading a book …. this is just WRONG!

  • Sewerpigeon

    Being a desert climate, the heat is dry and does subside somewhat in the shade, so I understand the need for large areas of shade within a parkscape and quite like the idea.

    I just wonder how the park edges meet the rest of the city? What is it’s context? Also wouldn’t the canopies be better off either with PVs or painted colours so that everyone overlooking the park from the massive skyscrapers get a view that is different from ‘desert’?

    • Vic Stapel

      I agree with you. If I may add they could consider the strength of the structure should allow actually to access the top stair or elevators and use them maybe with solar panel and create cooling fans and maybe other features like greenhouses that would add coolness to the concrete, which may reverberate heat due to the daily exposure to sunshine.

  • JeffM

    Looks like the underside of a southern CA freeway system.

  • Vic Stapel

    It’s actually a very clever idea! Nothing to do with Disneyland. It’s natural, people are seeking shade and cool in countries like that. I think the same would do very well in Vancouver also to get away from rain but still be outdoors and only brief moment hopping from one to the next cover… or even glass in between each shape.

  • Tim

    If I was a child (or young person) the first thing I am going to try is jumping from platform to platform. It looks high enough from the renders that if you fell it would cause some damage.

  • Mideos

    The concept begs the question: who will see it as mimicking cracked earth pieces? One would have to be up in the air to grasp the concept. Lucky birds eh?

  • أبو جاز Abu Jazz

    1 – Wouldn’t it be scary at night? Even if it’s lit… After all, the most magical thing about a park at night is being able to look up and see starry skies.

    2 – Wouldn’t the concrete structure limit the growth of trees or the choice of trees you can have in there? (hello, what happened to the “tree line” imagery?)

    3 – An oasis, while “sunken”, is not a cavernous space. The ultimate goal of having a park is to cultivate a green space facing up the sun and dissipating heat. Not a concrete structure that you need an alternative treatment for in order to insulate against heat.

    • Steph

      And another concrete project in UAE means another half dozen sunken islands in Indonesia, just to build a small part of fake nature. Silly world.

    • D

      I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I would also add that the proportion of hot weather months to bearable/pleasant months is not very high. It’s only 3 months of the year where the weather is extremely hot, and therefore is this giant canopy justifiable?

  • ovidiu

    Respect for dreaming, something that far too many architects forget to do! It is easy to point fingers, because it is special. Indeed it shows some European (mis)thinking but c’mon show some appreciation before barking.

  • Shane

    I think it’s just poetic and beautiful, no matter what you say.

  • olubitkabuu

    It is a nice picture to look at but as a landscape architect I would like to see the detail plans. It looks like the whole system will need one hell of a maintenance.

  • tony

    “With a variety of plants and flowers native to the Gulf”. I suggest you do some more homework about “native to the Gulf”. There are VERY few plants “native to the Gulf”, never mind flowering species.

    I know this because of the work I completed with Dubai Municipality. PS, not even the date palm is believed to be “native to the Gulf”.