In a city characterized by iconic skyscrapers and commerce, the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi is highlighting nature with a new urban biodiversity park in the heart of downtown. At 27,500 square meters, Al Fay Park is expertly designed to enhance the local microclimate by maximizing natural cooling through landscaping.

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The name, which is Arabic for “The Shade Park,” is a nod to the park’s use of nature-based design solutions to reduce the area’s warming through trees and shrubs. According to the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, it’s the first urban park in the UAE to use biodiversity to enhance both local microclimates and the social public realm.

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Al Fay Park is designed by Danish design studio SLA, a company known for its environmentally friendly landscape architecture. A team of in-house biologists and plant experts researched the region’s wildlife and natural microclimates for an entire year before designing the public urban space. They looked at plants that were native to the UAE, as well as their best growing and living conditions, and best practices for integrating them into the park design. Additionally, the team examined local wildlife species such as pollinating insects and birds to create the most favorable habitats and living conditions for native animals.

“The density of the trees, the soil design, the irrigation using solely recirculated water, and the sole use of native species not only ensure that the park has radically reduced its irrigation with 40 percent compared to conventional parks,” said Rasmus Astrup, Design Principal and Partner in SLA. “The planting also attracts bees, pollinators, birds and animals, providing a lush and lively atmosphere in the middle of Abu Dhabi – this is with 100 percent birdsong guaranty! Lastly, the microclimate design provides the best possible social ecosystem for play, sports and leisure – making Al Fay Park both socially and climatically ‘the coolest place in town.'” The park contains over 2,000 native plants to help strengthen biodiversity, including the national tree of the UAE, the Ghaf tree. The trees were grown in desert nurseries and then replanted on the property.

While the forested environment is the natural highlight of the park, there are plenty of social aspects as well, including multiple sports facilities, playgrounds, space for food trucks, climbing walls, outdoor seating areas and even a minigolf course. Designers also chose to include sloping entrances to funnel cool breezes from the south and to reduce sand infiltration. 

+ SLA

Images courtesy of ©SLA / Philip Handforth