24 Nov, 2017
Manifesting Cultural History in Landscapes: Aflaj Park, Al Ain
Aflaj Park was shortlisted for the World Architecture News (WAN) Future Projects Urban Design Award 2017, a prestigious award that unites prominent and influential professionals within the architectural community, and recognises and commends exceptional achievements. The WAN Awards shines a spotlight on standout architectural projects and the remarkable individuals and teams behind them, and this makes the shortlisting of ICON’s Aflaj Park a hugely meaningful achievement.

However, it’s not hard to see why it was nominated. Seamlessly combining heritage, recreation, and education all in one space, the park is nestled in the eastern part of Al Ain, a city in the United Arab Emirates.

Providing a valuable opportunity for visitors to learn about the history of the UAE, and immerse themselves in its proud heritage, the park aims to preserve and incorporate the area’s three existing traditional aflaj, including the still active Falaj Al Aini and Falaj Dawoodi, and Falaj Khalifa, which is no longer active.

In the desert, water is a crucial part of survival for humans, animals, and plants, and a “falaj” is a system that transports underground water to the surface and distributes it through multiple channels. The UAE’s clever falaj irrigation systems were created thousands of years ago by tribesmen who discovered the underground springs, and developed a system of waterways to aid their agricultural efforts. The system was an important staple of life in the Al Ain area, and this is precisely what makes Aflaj Park such a unique and special place.

The park’s design integrates, as well as preserves, these parts of the UAE’s history, and it also aims to educate future generations by providing recreation, education and heritage centres, sports and high-speed cycle tracks, pocket parks, relocatable F&B points, a petting zoo, and a wadi park. The major highlight is the 15m-deep canyon that takes visitors on a fantastic journey through Al Ain’s water and oases, its major life sources.

By taking inspiration from the natural elements of the surrounding terrain, the park maintains an effortlessly beautiful design. The truly visionary project transports visitors to a realm where the past, present, and future intertwine, and it honours a small but important part of the UAE’s rich heritage.


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