International engineering consultancy Buro Happold is celebrating winning a highly prestigious, world renowned Aga Khan Award for Architecture for their ground breaking work with Moriyama & Teshima on the restoration and development of Wadi Hanifah, a project commissioned by the ADA to revive this crucial water source which runs through the heart of Riyadh.
Held every three years the Aga Khan awards, which were established in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan, seek to enhance the understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture as expressed through architecture. The awards seek to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence, encompassing concerns as varied as contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, reuse, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environmental issues.
Buro Happold won their award, the largest architectural award scheme in the world, for their innovative and inspired work on Wadi Hanifah, by restoring the Wadi's natural beauty, as well as harnessing and rehabilitating its water to transform it in to a social and economic space for the population of Riyadh and its environs. Buro Happold chairman Rod Macdonald commented “We are thrilled to receive this distinguished award for our work on a project that has made such a significant difference to the local population both economically and recreationally. Environmentally the transformation has been dramatic and we look forward continuing this change as we work on the next stages of the Wadi Hanifah masterplan.”
Wadi Hanifah was once Riyadh’s main source of ground water used agriculturally, for drinking water and as a food supply. However due to over-reliance on the Wadi's underground water reserves the water table fell so low that most of the city's water supply had to be piped from desalination plants, at great cost, from the coast 350km away.
In recent years, unrestricted and rapid urban expansion had added to the problem, turning the once normally dry Wadi into a permanent flowing river in its lower reaches, as sewage effluent discharge from the city and rising groundwater caused it to be polluted and left in a state of general misuse.
In 2001 Buro Happold was commissioned with Canadian architects Moriyama & Teshima to plan the restoration and development of the Wadi as an environmental, recreational and tourism resource. The focus of the masterplan was to restore the Wadi's natural beauty, spoilt by decades of unfettered dumping and development, as well as harnessing and rehabilitating its water.
Buro Happold, under the leadership of project director Alan Travers, provided a variety of services for this complex project, including flood mitigation, planning and urban design, site infrastructure and specialist consulting to deliver three major components: an appraisal of current conditions, a comprehensive development plan design and an implementation programme. Throughout the implementation process Buro Happold provided contract management and site supervision services.
The Wadi was officially opened on 5th April by the Governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman, for public use. The prince is also chairman of the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) the body that commissioned the work. The ADA adopted and implemented the project due to the strategic value of the valley following the capital development over the past decades, which corresponded with the valley’s deterioration. The restoration works have seen a major revitalisation in land values and a welcome return to the Wadi as a much visited local destination in a city severely lacking green recreational space, providing a 70km long linear city park, as well as a naturalised wadi environment.
Buro Happold is now working with the ADA on the Al Ha’ir lakes or Lakes District, a unique wetland with huge environmental, ecological and recreational potential, some 50km south of Riyadh and within the downstream area of Wadi Hanifah. The Lakes District is an artificial feature, created by a combination of dewatering to control the rising groundwater from Riyadh, and the discharge of treated sewage effluent. This next stage in the masterplan for Wadi Hanifah will see a further reversal of environmental damage, and the improvement of the water quality, in a continuation of the reclamation of this enduring and essential water course.
Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA)
Moriyama & Teshima
Flood mitigation, planning and urban design, site infrastructure and specialist consulting
Images are available on request.
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Buro Happold is a multi-disciplinary international practice of consulting engineers established in 1976. It offers civil and structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, quantity surveying, building services and environmental engineering, health and safety management, infrastructure and traffic engineering, ground engineering, façade engineering, fire engineering, computational fluid dynamics analysis, inclusive design consultancy, project management, urban design and a range of specialist CAD services.