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An Oasis of Fountains in the Emirates
14 Modern Water Features Help Regenerate One of Abu Dhabi's Oldest Parks

Lead Design Consultant, Master Planner and Landscape Architect --ValleyCrest Design Group, Denver Water Feature Consultant--Crystal Fountains, Toronto

The ValleyCrest Design Group in Denver, and Crystal Fountains in Toronto collaborated on the design of 14 modern water features for the $48.7 million renovation of Mushrif Park in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. The central water feature is the Memorial Fountain, a monolithic outer monumental gateway (a 'propylon') of black granite with five double-sided water walls on the east and west sides of the feature, each approximately 9 feet wide and 18.2 ft. high. (See also p. 44). The water descends over a small weir on the north wall and flows to a central recessed chamber that collects water from the exterior reflecting pool as well. It is there that all of the suction line components are concealed.
Photos from Crystal Fountains

U.S.-based landscape architect ValleyCrest Design Group (Denver), with support from international water feature specialist Crystal Fountains in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has designed 14 modern water features as part of a major $48.7 million regeneration project at Mushrif Park, one of the oldest and largest parks in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The park was created in early 1980 by the Dubai Municipality, and first opened to visitors in 1982. The park is located in the eastern part of the city near the suburb of Khawaneej, about 10 miles from the traditional center of Dubai. The park, originally known as Mushrif Park, was an "exclusive destination for women and children." Park expansion occurred in 1989, and in January 2013, the park was closed for two years for major redevelopment.



Beneath the metal amphitheater canopy is a splash-pad type fountain with 21 flush-mounted nozzles arranged in rows of seven. Sequencing the fountains is Crystal Fountains' proprietary 'ChoreoSwitch' product. The device creates programmed effects to make play decks interactive, and has built-in LEDs for dramatic evening light shows. The amphitheater's Great Lawn can comfortably accommodate 1,000 people.

The redesign focused on making the park a community and family entertainment destination. Coinciding with its reopening, the park was renamed Mushrif "Central Park" to better reflect its positioning as a social hub, both geographically and historically. The new park covers just a bit over two square miles (1,300 acre). The design honors the legacy of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918 - 2004), who is considered the "principal driving force" behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates, and its president for 33 years. Central Park includes many features that adhere to his vision of preserving the culture and natural history of the United Arab Emirates. That vision supports "education through recreation" for various age groups, the mingling of different communities, promotion of an active lifestyle and encouraging dynamic local culture, heritage and tradition.

Throughout construction there was extensive community engagement with over 25 key community groups and government agencies, along with over 70 schools. The official website for the park asserts this level of community initiative was the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi. A community survey was also taken to get feedback from residents about their views on operations and programming. Mushrif Central Park is all about serving the community.


The Eastern Terminus Pool (replicated on the west end also) has a series of 7, 9 and 11 flush-mounted submerged nozzles that create aerated mounds, each illuminated with LEDs. A single pump supplies water to each individual group of nozzles. These are controlled by a variable frequency drive allowing the height of the water to adjust from 1 foot to a maximum height of 6.8 feet.

The revamped park is now home to numerous playgrounds and botanical gardens, some of which include plant species previously unused in Abu Dhabi public space. There is even a petting zoo, replete with goats, donkeys and camels that encourages education, interactivity and conservation.

Given the cultural significance of water in the Middle East, it is natural that fountains play a fundamental role in the design of Mushrif Central Park. Fourteen water features positioned throughout the park are integral to the redesigned park's landscape architecture and the overall experience the space provides to the public. They are the focal point of the main east to west promenade that runs through Mushrif Central Park, and play a major role in way finding and exploration of the park's wider gardens and elegant spaces.


A reflecting pool and Wisdom Garden is at the center of the Memorial Fountain space (the granite water walls of the opening spread). This is a traditional 'freeboard' pool, meaning the water level is about six inches below the pool coping. Within this tranquil pool are hexagonal concrete 'islands.' At the center of the pool is an oasis replete with Ziziphus trees and palms uplit with LEDs.

This is particularly noticeable at night when the water features are illuminated by hundreds of multicolored submersible LED lights. The promenade water feature is the largest in the park, extending 420 meters across it. Two large channels comprise its most prominent design feature and contain a series of step cascades and aerated nozzles. Pedestrian paths and extensive landscaping also run alongside the fountains, enabling the promenade to form the spine of the park.

Individual water features also enhance the architecture of the park's wider spaces and distinctive gardens. An array of different water features creates a range of diverse water experiences for the public to enjoy. Contemporary fountains display modern designs and effects, but are balanced with natural water features that encourage the growth of vegetation and plant life. Some fountain pools evolve from elegant, traditional water features, to dynamic displays of sequenced water and light, whereas interactive fountains encourage the public to directly engage with the water.



The Botanic Garden pool is a series of natural pools bordered by sandstone slabs quarried in Oman. Metal fish were embedded in the rock of the manmade streams running through Mushrif Park, and rocky steps in the water have been filed down to remove all sharp edges. The 28-meter tall Shade House (right) is an open-air atrium of 30 species of tropical plants and palms. The structure blocks about 50 percent of the intense Abu Dhabi sun, without which the plants would not typically survive. A fogging system helps maintain humidity levels to support plant growth. A second-story viewing level inside the structure looks out onto the Great Lawn and amphitheater.

The contemporary memorial gardens lie to the south of the promenade's central point, and comprise eye-catching water walls made of black granite that form the garden's boundaries. They are inscribed with quotes from the late Sheikh Zayed himself, and are enhanced at night with soft white lights that illuminate the cascading water.

In contrast, water features in Mushrif Central Park's botanical gardens introduce water as a natural element. Pools have been created with natural stone and provide a habitat for exotic plants. The pools are connected with small rivers that enable water to cascade down from pool to pool, making more traditional use of water than some of the park's more modern water features. Inside the botanical gardens' shade building, a large reflecting pool of water is divided by a pedestrian bridge that creates two pools.




The Children's Garden Water Fountain is a splash pad with flush-mounted sequencing nozzles with column effects, tied to 36 color changing LEDs.

Other fountains encourage the public's interaction. A vast oval shaped green space sits between the memorial gardens and an interactive amphitheater water feature in which the public is encouraged to play. Streams of water shoot up from 21-flush mounted nozzles, creating different water shows that provide a visual attraction and a cooling effect for those relaxing in the adjoining green space.

The amphitheater feature also functions as an innovative dual use fountain that can be turned off to provide space for performances. It can seamlessly change from a water feature to a theatrical stage where up to 2,500 people can enjoy shows from the surrounding stands or nearby field.



This freeboard pool has five submerged flush-mounted nozzles and LEDs, all of them connected to a ChoreoSwitch interactive sequencer. This pool is located between the east and west promenades, after the arrival feature.

"Mushrif Central Park's 14 water features are essential to the redesigned park's landscape architecture," commented Simon Gardiner director of creative design at Crystal Fountains. The visual entertainment starts gently, with a small pool comprising an eight-nozzle fountain at the entrance to the park, drawing visitors in and preparing them for what is to come. They are then met with different, inspiring water features that navigate them through the park."

To further establish the Mushrif Central Park as a community hub, the ValleyCrest design team invited local groups and schools to contribute suggestions regarding the park's features during the construction process. These discussions helped mold the park into an attractive public destination while ensuring its constituents felt a sense of ownership over its design.



The double-sided water walls on the east and west side of the Memorial Fountain empty into a square-troughed perimeter reflecting pool from which water flows to the lower central interior freeboard reflecting pool. The exterior reflecting pool contains small circulation fittings to allow for the proper filtration of the water and to prevent 'dead spots' in the water body. The exterior reflecting pool has 124 white, 30-watt submersible LEDs.

Sustainability was also a core focus of Mushrif Central Park's design intent. In an effort to preserve existing "green" infrastructure, 200 mature trees from the original park site were dug up and replanted after the site was regenerated with fresh topsoil. For its irrigation, the park uses reclaimed gray water, reducing its overall water consumption by 40 percent.

Thanks in part to these sustainable initiatives, Mushrif Central Park has been awarded a "Pearl 2" rating under the Estidama sustainable building standards used in the Middle East, which is a first for a green space in this region. The park was completed in March 2015 and was developed by Al Ain Properties for the Abu Dhabi Municipality.


The Promenade fountains, flanked by pedestrian paths and rows of palms, stretch across the park in a 420-meter east-west arc. These fountains operate within two large runnels and a series of step cascades. The runnel water is introduced to the pools by inlets concealed below the pool floors in recessed chambers. The water is recirculated through a filtration system. These elongated water features required three equipment rooms to avoid long pipe and conduit runs.

Project Team
Lead Design Consultant, Master Planner, and Landscape Architect: ValleyCrest Design Group, Denver
Architect of Record / Structural & Civil Engineering:
S.A. Miro, Inc., Denver & Abu Dhabi
Design Architect: Semple Brown Design, P.C., Denver
Environmental Graphics / Signage: Arthouse Design (Denver)
Irrigation Design: Sweeney and Associates, Murrieta, Calif.
Lighting Design:
Architectural Engineering Design Group, Inc., Denver
MEP Engineering: Ian Banham and Associates, Abu Dhabi
Water Feature Consultant: Crystal Fountains, Toronto


The entrance to Mushrif Park is a glazed glass cube crowned by an oculus that frames a perfect circle of sky.

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May 26, 2019, 3:13 pm PDT

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