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”