Parks and recreation

Urban parks bring nature to cities.

In an era marked by urbanisation and an ever-growing need for green spaces, innovative urban parks have emerged as transformative hubs of community life and environmental sustainability around the globe.


These five visionary urban oases have redefined the traditional concept of a park to unite built and natural environments.


Opera Park

Recently recognised as one of ArchDaily’s ‘Building of the Year 2024’ winners, Opera Park in Copenhagen is a public park on the waterfront of Denmark’s densely built harbour, designed by Cobe Architects. The park, which is the size of three soccer fields, has six gardens of trees and plants from various parts of the world: the North American Forest, the Danish Oak Forest, the Nordic Forest, the Oriental Garden, the English Garden, and the Subtropical Garden housed within a greenhouse. Designed to be a year-round oasis for city goers, the park channels rainwater from the roof of the adjacent Royal Danish Opera into underground water reservoirs for use as greenhouse irrigation.

Benjakitti Forest Park

Originally a tobacco factory and brownfield owned by Thailand’s royal family, the site of what is now the Benjakitti Forest Park was paved over before being redeveloped as an urban park in Bangkok. The park’s design features hundreds of mounded islands surrounded by four lakes capable of holding a million cubic metres of storm water – designed as such because the city is susceptible to flooding – that also naturally filter and clean polluted water and provide wildlife habitat.

The High Line


The High Line is a 1,45-mile-long (2,3 kilometres) elevated park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad in New York City. When the trains stopped running in the mid 20th century, more than 210 plant species grew naturally into the space, and in 2009 the High Line park was established to highlight this wild landscape with modern pathways and seating areas for pedestrians to enjoy a view of the city from above.

Gardens by the Bay

The Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares in the Central Region of Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The stunning and expansive horticultural experience across three gardens – Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden – contains attractions such as the Flower Dome (recorded as the World’s Largest Glass Greenhouse), the Cloud Forest of rare tropical vegetation, and the famous Supertrees, a grove of tree-like vertical gardens that harvest solar energy.



Al Fay Park

The 27 500 metre-squared Al Fay park was the first urban park in the United Arab Emirates. Focusing on biodiversity, social activities and microclimate optimisation, and designed both aesthetically and climatically to be ‘the coolest place in town’, this desert and city oasis is home to more than 2 000 native trees. Its high density of trees plus modern irrigation systems ensure it uses 40% less water than traditional parks while providing a cool, comfortable, and unique around-the-clock place for residents and visitors in Abu Dhabi to gather.


Photographs: Francisco Tirado, Iwan Baan, Dan Nguyen, Srirath Somsawat, Philip Handforth


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