Gallery: Aga Khan Award for Architecture: Wadi Hanifa Wetlands

Water is the lifeblood of sustainable habitation, and no more so is it crucial than in desert societies. One of this year's winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture is not a building complex, but remarkably, an entire ecosystem. Located in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is the Wadi Hanifa watershed, a 4,000 square kilometer drainage that has become key to the capital's environmental sustainability. After many years of neglect, a long term reclamation plan was put underway, and is now being recognized worldwide for its size and aesthetic. The safe use of the river was one of the most visually compelling design features, but it was water reclamation, habitat restoration and industrial clean up throughout the river basin that really exemplifies how profound the project's scope is.

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