Wadi Hanifa Wetlands Project

By November 26, 2010 5 Comments


Wadi Hanifa was once the lifeblood of Riyadh. Decades of development and neglect has turned this natural water source into sewage dump. A few years ago, the Saudis decided to revitalize the Wadi and the results are stunning.

What was once an open sewer is now a wonderful landscape and park system where children play and the water is naturally filtered and reused for irrigation. It’s a beautiful success story and an example for the entire region to follow. The project has won the 2010 Aga Khan award for Architecture:

“This project reverses the tide of rapid urban development, which has seen public space in many cities within the Muslim world fall victim to expropriation and other practices that deprive the population of its resources. This invariably happens at the cost of environmental values and sensitive ecosystems. The Wadi Hanifa Wetlands project eloquently demonstrates an alternative ecological way of urban development. It shows how a major natural phenomenon which, through the course of urbanisation, became a litter-strewn and dangerous place – a scar on the face of the capital city – can be transformed by sensitive planning attentive to social values and imaginative infrastructure driven landscape solutions.

The Award has been given in recognition of the project’s vision and persistence in developing a sustainable environment. Using landscape as an ecological infrastructure, the project has restored and enhanced the natural systems’ capacity to provide multiple services, including cleaning the contaminated water, mediating the natural forces of flood, providing habitats for biodiversity and creating opportunities for recreational, educational and aesthetic experiences”

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Tom says:

    This looks fantastic..! We need to apply this form of more, call it, ‘holistic’ thinking also elsewhere in the region… Who designed it..?

  • It’s wonderful, isn’t it? What I love about it is that it’s the sort of project that doesn’t really end, you know? The more successful it the more that fuels demand for new ideas.
    They turned a sewage dump into what looks like a river. I still can’t get over that…
    Moriyama & Teshima from Toronto. I haven’t heard of it before the Aga Khan announcement, but I will make damn sure to visit the next time i’m in Riyadh.

  • JB... Burroughs, ASLA Professional Landscape says:

    Barrak: MTP is in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It has a rich history in Toronto, dating back to easily the ’50’s / ’60’s when it was founded by Raymond Moriyama. The current land-planning firm, Moriyama-Teshima Planning (MTP) is housed within the parent M-T architectural office in Toronto. You should visit their offices in Toronto. As well, you need to find more about this firm’s work in your own backyard, the new University City (Kuwait University) at Shadidiyah. MTP is the master planner. For more info on both the Wadi Hanifa and University City, you can Google MTP’s website, or write more directly to: drew@mtarch.com (Drew Wensley, V-P, MTP). SSHIC is the Infrastructure Consultant for the KU project. Perhaps by now your firm is involved with some larger firm on one or other project for this hugely important campus development.

  • JB... Burroughs, ASLA Professional Landscape Architect says:

    Profesisonal Landscape Architect

  • JB... Burroughs, ASLA Professional Landscape Architect says:

    Further to my earlier comments: the original MTP master plan incorporated many of the Wadi Hanifa features in the central spine (The Oasis) that separated the two campuses (male/female), including bio-remediation which would have re-circulated the water back to the ‘head’ of the Oasis. . However, with critical comments from KU, the final design excludes this important aspect. You will find, tho’, outstanding design features for water features, including many water bodies. The original design provide a single, continuous water body that would have eventually required treatment at tremendous cost. The final design for the Oasis incorporates a series of linked, but separate, water bodies, each with its own mechanical system. It is ironic, tho’, that despite the high cost for this campus and it’s glorious Oasis, only staff (e.g., faculty, other staff) will be allowed into this central feature. Until this policy is eventually overturned at some time in the far future, students will only be allowed to look out from a distance (e.g., from academic buildings) at their faculty members strolling through the Oasis. The opportunity for celebration of life for both students and faculty at KU won’t be realized, unlike the Agha Khan award-winning Wadi Hanifa that celebrates and encourages use by all its citizens equally,

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