Congratulations to Pierre Smit for Passing First Year BSc Quantity Surveying Exams

 

Congratulations to Pierre Smit for passing his 2014 exams! Pierre is moving towards becoming a qualified quantity surveyor. He is studying a BSc Quantity Surveying at the College of Estate Management, University of Redding, UK.

Pierre has demonstrated enormous commitment and hard work to reach this important milestone. Pierre is studying part-time on top of his full-time employment at Verdaus. He has often played a key role in meeting project submissions under tight deadlines. Pierre has had a fair share of pressure over the past 12 months. The whole Verdaus team shared the joy of Pierre’s exam results when the news arrived. We are inspired by what can be achieved. Thanks Pierre! Let the good work continue.

Congratulations to Liuba Apostolova – OALA Associate Member

 

Big congratulations to Liuba Apostolova! Liuba was recently accepted as an Associate Member of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA).

Liuba worked intensively over a period of weeks to submit a 430-page portfolio of work. Liuba received her acceptance letter with high praise on her “outstanding” portfolio.

Membership to a professional association such as the OALA, is an important step in career development, and for maintaining high standards for the profession.

Liuba is passionate about landscape architecture and urban design. Verdaus is on a mission, to create better places for life. We look forward to working with Liuba on the next stage of this journey.

Lailak Street Park – Construction Commences

We are delighted that the Lailak Street Park in Emirates Hills is now under construction. EMAAR Community Management appointed Verdaus to design the park in 2013. The design process involved extensive consultation with board members of the residents association. We enjoyed the engagement with direct stakeholders who actively influenced the final design. No doubt the residents are excited to see the existing site being transformed into a new recreational facility for the community.

The park will include a multi-function sports field, a ball games court, a play fountain, a climbing space net for larger kids, and a shaded play space for the smaller kids. The sports field will double as a function lawn for large events. A paved court at one end of the field will serve as a food and beverage serving area. The illustration below shows a view looking towards the space net.

The ground levels are designed to rise towards the centre of the park. Kids in the middle of the park will feel like kings and queens of the castle. When viewed from the adjacent streets, the park will appear like a thickly planted hillock. The tall climbing space net at the highest point in the park will accentuate the rise in ground levels.

The perspective illustration was produced in-house at the Verdaus Dubai Dry Docks Studio. To see examples of other illustrations, click here.

Dubai Parks unveils plans for Riverpark development

On November 25, 2014 at 07:13PM the internet published an article about one of our projects. Dubai Parks unveils plans for Riverpark development. Read the story here

The Oberoi Dubai

Reader’s of “Travel and Leisure – USA” voted the Oberoi Group as the world’s best hotel brand in 2013. See the list of Travel and Leisure’s top five, below.

Top five hotel brands in the world according to Leisure and Travel reader survey.

Top five hotel brands in the world according to Leisure and Travel reader survey.

Verdaus Landscape Architects was selected to design the external spaces of Oberoi’s new Dubai offering, “The Oberoi Dubai”.

A number of presentations were held in India, both Mumbai and Delhi. The Oberoi’s accommodated the entire consultant team in five star comfort. The experience of staying at an Oberoi hotel impressed me greatly. We couldn’t find fault with the style of service. People seemed genuinely warm and offered help when it was needed. Otherwise guests were allowed to go about their business without intrusion. They really got that mix right. The Oberoi run a training academy and we were told they mostly employ their own graduates.

One design presentation was held at the Oberoi “farmhouse” near Delhi. Laith Wark presented to the Executive Chairman, Mr P.R.S Oberoi, or “Biki” as he is popularly known. Mr Oberoi fired questions at the entire consultant team for a straight six hours! No break, sharp questions about all kinds of fine level details ranging from kitchens, to interior finishes, to structural engineering, to landscape architecture.

During the meeting Laith referred to the project simply as “Oberoi Dubai” to be quickly corrected by Mr Oberoi in front of the entire team, “THE Oberoi Dubai, and I’m very serious about that”. Laith sat back, “Mr Oberoi”, he said, “I have no doubt you’re serious about it”. Mr Oberoi smiled. Although he was very strict, he had a way with people.

After the meeting we felt committed to making the best possible landscape design for the Oberoi Dubai, because that’s clearly what Mr Oberoi wanted, and besides that, we felt that’s what he really deserved.

Verdaus Landscape Architects were appointed directly by the owner, Rani International.

The following photographs were made during a visit to The Oberoi Dubai shortly after the official opening.

 

A visit to the 911 Memorial Site (Ground Zero)

Laith Wark from Verdaus recently visited the 911 Memorial Site in New York, designed by Peter Walker.

The site, “Ground Zero”, was redeveloped as a memorial in honor of the innocent people who died during the tragic events that occurred on September 11. I guess everyone  will interpret the design of this place in their own way. I left the site with a deep sense of empathy for the people who suffered the loss of loved ones. The design concept powerfully emphasized the concept of loss in the way the tower footprints were expressed as deep excavations. The fact of what had happened, and the sense of what had been destroyed were laid bare. This was a brave design move. I imagine the urge to “cover and forget”  would have been a “safer” proposal, less controversial.

The experience of visiting this site is something that will be difficult to forget.

A visit to the Highline in New York City

Last month Laith Wark from Verdaus visited the Highline (designed by James Corner Field Operations and others) on a side trip during a business visit to the USA. It was early summer and the weather was amazing. The Highline was bursting with fresh green growth and thousands of people out to enjoy a day in the park.

The Highline story begins with an industrial period elevated railway line in New York City. In the early 2000’s the aging infrastructure was destined to be demolished, until a successful community campaign won the right to convert the railway into a park.

Today the Highline attracts millions of people per year, and offers opportunities for cultural events, social service, and respite from the streets of New York City.

Development projects have since sprung up along the route of the new park, demonstrating how recreational open space can generate investment in real estate and stimulate an economy.

The following photographs were made by Laith Wark during his recent visit.

(The photos were geotagged after taking them…probably not all as accurately as they should be.)

 

The Change Initiative Landscape – a Splash of Green

Verdaus provided landscape design services for the Change Initiative Store in Dubai. The store aims to bring to Dubai a ‘one-stop’ marketplace for sustainable products and services such as advice on how to make the home and workplace more sustainable.

The Change Initiative Garden is a wonderful mix of planting that creates a small pocket of sustainable green in Al Barsha – an otherwise barren landscape.

This project offered the opportunity to develop a planting scheme using plant species that were either native to the local area or required less water – in keeping with the sustainable mission of the Change Initiative. Verdaus also offered advice on how to achieve the LEED rating in a cost effective way, reducing the landscape budget by over 100%.

Acacia arabica planted with an understorey of clumping grass and desert heath groundcovers.

The project is in Barsha and is visible from Sheikh Zayed road. Keep a lookout for the splash of green!

The splash of green in front of the store is a garden planted with species that are native to the local area or use less water.

SoharUniversity– Landscape Irrigation and Waste Water Treatment

Landscape Middle East Magazine recently covered a Verdaus project with a focus on integrated water resource management. The article, “SoharUniversity– Landscape Irrigation and Waste Water Treatment” is an interesting cover of how foresight, collaboration and innovation can offer environmental benefits and cost savings.

Introduction

In 2007, Sohar University appointed a consultant team to prepare a new master plan.  Verdaus Landscape Architects LLC was part of the consultant team.  Later, during the detailed design stage, Sohar University commissioned Mizan Consult to prepare a Feasibility Study and then a design for a “Reed Bed” system for waste water treatment.  This design offers considerable advantages over the present system of removing waste water by tanker.  Intensive collaboration between Verdaus and Mizan identified ways to integrate the landscape irrigation and waste water treatment systems to provide further advantages. Continue Reading

Rain Gardens of Isfahan

The city of Isfahan is built around water in the centre of a vast desert plateau. The Zayandeh River, supplies water to the city from snow melt originating in the Zagros  mountain range 200 kms  to the west. Isfahan is famous for it’s bridges spanning the Zayandeh, most were built between the 12th and 18th Centuries. However the less publicised “rain gardens” of the old city are an equally impressive engineering achievement.

A pleasant dappled shade dominates the character of Isfahani streets. This is a striking and welcome contrast to the exposed expanse of surrounding desert. Environmental comfort on the Isfahani street far surpasses the hot and exposed  streetscapes only a few hours flight away, in the cities on the southern side of the Gulf. The planners of Isfahan obviously had a clear vision of what makes a city street work in this harsh environment. These streets have some of the densest urban tree planting in the world. Continue Reading

Muscat Royal Opera House – Site Progress

Landscape works at the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman, are in full swing. A large amount of the hard landscape is completed in the sunken maze garden. Site offices have been moved “off-site” to make room for the remainng landscape. The scale and proportion appears to be working very well. We are looking forward to opening day.

Also included one photo of stone carving architectural detail. This kind of workmanship is rarely seen in construction these days.

Landscape Information Modelling…not up with BIM yet

This post is a comment I made on Lounge8, an online site for landscape architects.

Civil CAD 3D is the “Revit” of the civil engineers world and has many applications for landscape architecture. It is the tool for any land modelling, road or pathway corridors, drainage etc, what you would expect from a package for civil engineers. You build the site as a “dynamic model” and the software produces the documentation which is a major advantage of information rich modelling. If we were civil engineers there’d be no question, Civil 3D would be the answer. Verdaususe it for topographic modelling. However we have not yet pushed the boundaries to see to what extent it can cover the full scope of landscape works.

Verdaus also use LandF/X for planting and irrigation. It does a great job on this. It produces automatic schedules of items and Bills of Quantities for this scope of work. It also can do the same for horizontal surface finishes.

It is partly because the scope of our profession and work is so rich and varied that there is no one “Information Package” that can do it all for landscape architects. It would be a very worthwhile pursuit to build a case strong enough to raise interest amongst the software providers to develop a capable “Landscape Information Modelling” package.

I believe it will be important for the landscape architectural profession to have a landscape ready information modelling package. This is the way of the future no doubt.

Landscape Architecture Professional Associations

I often am asked for information about landscape architecture and refer people to these websites:

American Society of Landscape Architects
http://www.asla.org/index.aspx

Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA)
http://www.aila.org.au

Landscape Institute | Inspiring great places (UK)
http://www.landscapeinstitute.org

Landscape Architecture Foundation
http://www.lafoundation.org

These sites includes links to the professional association website for landscape architects in Australia, UK and the USA. The Landscape Architecture Foundation is a research body set up to “increase the capacity of landscape architects to solve the environmental crisis”.

Projects that Illustrate Landscape Performance

A video by the Landscape Architecture Foundation that showcases landscape projects that provide important ecological services.

LPS #5: Projects that Illustrate Landscape Performance from LandscapeArchitecture Foundation on Vimeo.

Sharjah Maritime Museum Photos

We just returned to the office from visiting the Sharjah Maritime Museum. This is one of our earlier projects and we were delighted with the end result. We were there during midday, a time of few people outdoors. We’d like to go back in the evening to see how the space is being used. This project is located on a culturally important site on the creek in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

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Muscat Opera House in Construction Week Online

Recently Construction Week Online recently posted an article about the Muscat Opera House. This is one of Verdaus’ projects, definately, but sadly our involvement was not mentioned in the article! Well, this won’t stop us from posting about it in our own blog.

When complete, the opera house will be only the second of its kind in the Middle East and occupy an area of 80,000 m2, half of which will be set aside for landscaped gardens.

Recently we published a post about construction progress for this project here.

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Get sustainable with urban vegetation

Plants in the city help make better places for life.

However one downside is the cost of maintaining urban plantings, particularly in hot arid climates.  The good news is maintenance costs and water usage can be reduced through better design. To show just how self sustainable urban planting can be, these photos show plants surviving despite no maintenance other than a leaky irrigation pipe. [sthumbs=513|514,160,max,n,center,]These plantings grew on their own accord. Despite being considered as “weeds”, they benefit us by reducing heat, glare and dust. The cost of maintaining these plants is virtually zero. Compare this with the cost of maintaining the pink flowering annuals which appear so abundantly in our public spaces. These “wild” plants have a different kind of beauty which is unstructured and more natural in character. We made some noise about this issue on another post – here.

We could increase the sustainability of city spaces through smarter planting selections and maintenance regimes. To achieve this we must think of urban planting more as “green infrastructure” than as “entertaining decoration”. What if we designed with survival in mind (our survival)? This issue was discussed in a very interesting article, “Art of Survival”, by Dr Kongjian Yu of Turenscape.

Landscape Magazine: “Who’s who – Laith Wark”

Interview with Laith Wark by Landscape – The First Specialized Landscape Magazine in the Middle East.

Source: Landscape Magazine, January 2011 Issue 43
http://www.landscape-me.com/

Copy of pdf file here.

Two inspiring projects improve slum living conditions

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share information about inspiring work by others. We recently came across a couple of inspiring projects that improved the quality of life for people in poor living conditions. The first project is the Slum Networking in Indore City which achieved remarkable results. What we like about this project most is that it benefited the local community. This project won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Slum Networking is a community driven approach which sees slums not as resource draining liabilities, but as opportunities of sustainable change for the city as a whole. The programme involves the building of low-cost service trunks which include gravity-based systems of sewerage and storm drainage, the planting of gardens, and the surfacing of roads. In addition, 120 community halls have been constructed for health, educational, and training activities.

The second project is the Kibera Public Space Project. This project by the  Design Initiative included a range of initiatives to improve the living conditions in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya—the largest slum in Africa and second largest in the world. This project is interesting because of the way the consultants worked very closely with the local community at the grass roots level.

By the way, the Kibera slum is also the location of the Kibera School for Girls, organised by the Shining Hope Foundation.

Project update: Royal Opera House in Muscat

We visited the site for the Royal Opera House in Muscat last week and were impressed with progress. Almost all the concrete works were complete. The scale and proportion is now clear it looks right. We’re looking forward to seeing progress accelerate now.

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