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Plans for the first urban forest in Abu Dhabi have been revealed as part of efforts to help residents connect with nature. Al Reem Island will be the site of a sprawling forest, The Reem Forest, one of hundreds intended to make the capital more liveable.

The forest will be a significant departure from the manicured lawns and carefully positioned palm trees that epitomize green spaces in Abu Dhabi. A self-sustaining wild forest, local trees that grow naturally in the Emirates will be used to minimise maintenance and achieve genuine biodiversity.

Rasmus Astrup, of Copenhagen-based architecture and landscape company SLA, said “For people who walk inside there is a forest track – it’s something that is a little inconvenient, a little dangerous, you have to walk on stepping stones in there. We want people to engage as much as possible with the nature. Of course, it’s not a forest like where I come from in Denmark. We have snow right now so it’s different. But it will have the feeling you get of being in a forest. There are no lawns, it is a park without any lawns. So it’s very different to what people are used to. We’re using only local species. Obviously it’s going to be interesting how people react to it.”

Andrew Grant, of UK-based landscape architect firm Grant Associates welcomed the initiative, saying, “There has to be a fundamental new way of thinking about landscapes in Abu Dhabi. I think Abu Dhabi has the opportunity, if they go with this in a really fundamental way, to really put a global exemplar out there to show how we can make our cities much more beautiful, nature-filled and attractive to live in.”