Desert landscaping, GCC landscaping, Landscape architecture, Sustainable landscaping

GCC markets are coming to terms with what it means to be truly sustainable

“Sustainability is about being local,” said Duncan Denley, managing director of desert INK, this month’s knowledge partner. “Which means it’s about sourcing locally, like reusing waste materials. There are so many factors that can contribute to the sustainability of a project.”

Having just finished The Block, a new urban park in Dubai Design District (d3), desert INK is fast becoming a leading practice in green space design across the UAE. The Dubai-based studio is currently working on a number of projects, including the Sustainability Pavilion for Expo 2020 with Grimshaw.

Though details of the project are being kept under wraps, Denley asserted that desert INK’s design for the project will be educational, and hopefully influential.

The Block, a park in d3 designed by desert INK.
Photo by Grace Guino / ITP Images

“Native plants can be quite attractive, and you just need to use them in the right way,” he said. “That’s a big part of many of our projects. So if we manage to convince people of that, then we’ve done our job.”

While other landscape architects in the region have agreed that urban and green spaces across the GCC have often attempted to recreate tropical or Mediterranean-themed environments in the past, some industry professionals now say that those same markets, from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain to the UAE, have been changing their tune.

According to Robert Shakespeare, group design director at Cracknell, one of the most “exciting trends over the past 20 years” has been a demand for more sophisticated urban spaces.

“We all live and use our public realm far more today than we did 20 years ago, so the challenge for landscape architects is to bring these places to life and make them usable throughout the year,” Shakespeare said.

“While there are many ‘smart solutions’ in the design market that will reduce water, save power, reduce heat gain and link you to a social media app, the smartest solution is to design appropriately,” he said. “And that means account for the climate, respond to the conditions and keep it simple.”