Al Ain Zoo wins top social project award in GCC

The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre has been recongised for its contributions to sustainable desert living.

Exterior view of the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre under construction last year at Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort in Al Ain. Ravindranath K / The National
Powered by automated translation

AL AIN // A new Dh280 million museum and research centre at Al Ain Zoo has won an award for its contribution to sustainability.

The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre has been named the UAE’s Social Project of the Year by the Middle East Economic Digest (Meed), which rewards outstanding construction and infrastructure projects across the GCC region.

The centre, near Jebel Hafeet, showcases Abu Dhabi’s natural history through interactive displays and has a specialised library.

It complements the work of Al Ain Zoo in preserving the region’s wildlife and promoting sustainable use of the natural environment.

Ghanim Al Hajeri, the director general of the zoo, said it was an honour to receive the accolade.

“The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre will not only showcase the history of the UAE, where people have coexisted naturally with wildlife for decades, but it will also pay tribute to the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed,” he said.

“Once complete, the centre will allow visitors to learn more about the conservation practices needed to protect desert wildlife and their habitats, helping to chart a sustainable future for desert living.

“Aligned with its commitment to sustainability, the centre is in the process of applying for Leed Platinum certification, an international rating that assesses the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.”

The building is designed to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, cutting unnecessary water and electricity usage. It was built partially from locally sourced and recycled materials.

It is also an architectural and artistic feat in its own right.

“Unlike the flat desert where one experiences only the horizontal flat planes, the building offers an array of experiences in the vertical axis,” said the centre’s architect, Chalabi Architekten and Partners.

“It spirals up around a central courtyard to a high point which offers a vista to the safari park and the mountain ridge.”

Other UAE projects recognised by Meed were: Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi (best building); the UAE Pavilion (small project); Concourse A at Dubai International Airport (transport project); Gulf Petrochem Project in Fujairah (oil and gas); Ducab HV and EHV Facility in Jebel Ali (best industry project); The Gate District Towers 3, 4, 5 and 7 in Abu Dhabi (leisure and tourism); Siemens Head Office (sustainability); Al Barari Development (water recycling).

Nine projects in the UAE were recognised by Meed – more than in any of the other five countries represented. These were Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.