Christian Reynolds, Dubai: The Next Decade, KEO, Middle East Architect

KEO’s Christian Reynolds thinks building and landscape architects need to cooperate better

I think that in Dubai, and in the UAE in general, over the next few years we are going to continue to see an increase in the acceptance and application of sustainable design and technology. And in relation, I think we will continue to see a lot more attention paid to the built environment, in general, which means looking at how buildings sit in public spaces and at the importance of good public environments, as well as just good buildings.

What is a good public environment? I guess that probably covers a couple of different things. I would say it starts with private developments that put some thought and effort into the open space around their buildings, whatever those building types are. And it extends further than that to public spaces, whatever those might be — from parks to public walkways, like what you have in Dubai Marina. A good public environment is a place that’s nicely detailed, comfortably landscaped and that’s pleasant for people to be in.

So then, in order to make sure buildings sit well in public spaces, it really comes down to how the building sits on the ground. Across the world, we see buildings that just look like they were plumped down without any thought to how they relate to even the sidewalk, so there’s an attention that needs to be paid to that interface between the ground and the building. Landscape design can enhance the building or fight with it, so it’s good to have a lot of cooperation between architects and landscape designers. Different elements of the built environment need to work together, rather than fight each other.

With sustainability, one of the things that drives it is that sustainable technologies are constantly advancing, and over time things that were expensive to implement become less expensive. You know, when the equipment or technology that go into sustainable design first hit the market, it’s new, untested and expensive. But over time it becomes accepted and prices are driven down.

So sustainable design will become more cost-effective. And the thing with sustainable design is that there’s a gradual acceptance of the fact that buildings that create better environments for their owners, employees or tenants actually have a better financial return over time than buildings that don’t. So those things, those ideas, are much more widely known and held in America or Europe, but they are becoming known here in the Gulf, and Dubai is the leader in adopting sustainable design and, I would say, in creating world-class public spaces and public environments.

This piece was written by Christian Reynolds, KEO’s vice president of design, as part of Middle East Architect’s ‘Dubai: The Next Decade’ series.