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Heatherwick reveals plans for sunken oasis below Abu Dhabi desert

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[FIRST LOOK] Thomas Heatherwick has revealed his latest plans for a 125,000m² park in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The Olympic Cauldron-designer has been working on the cavernous underground garden since 2010 when he picked up the coveted commission from the UAE capital city’s royal family.

Planned to open in early 2017, the high-profile Al Fayah Park project will feature a colonnade of cafés, play areas and vegetable gardens sunk beneath fragmented pieces of desert.

A public library, picnic area, mosque, outdoor cinema and arena are also planned for the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street scheme which will start on site later this year.

Describing the project, Heatherwick said: ‘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.’

He continued: ‘These elevated pieces create a perforated canopy of partial shade under which a lush garden can grow, protected from the hot desert sun. This sunken oasis becomes a landscape of plants, mature trees and a cluster of public recreational spaces.’ 

‘The twenty 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. While providing shade in the daytime, the elevated plates also become a network of unique meeting places in the cooler evening hours.’

The project client, the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation was set up by the wife of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in 2010 to promote education, arts and culture.

Iman Khouri of the foundation said: ‘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.’

He added: ‘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.’

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