Sustainable Urban Tree Planting

Structural soil is a construction technology developed by landscape architects. The system is designed to improve conditions for urban tree planting. It is a fairly simple method using a specially designed mix of aggregate and planting medium. The aggregates form a structural matrix to support the pavement around trees, and the planting medium provides space and nutrients to the tree roots. Verdaus first used this technology on the Majlis Oman project. The follow photo gallery shows the sequence of construction.

Lailak Street Park – Hoarding Down!

The hoarding is down at Lailak Street Park! The park is now open to the public. It is time to celebrate another successful project opening at Verdaus Landscape Architects. We are sure the celebrations in our studio won’t match the party in the park. The word is out and kids from the local community are discovering the park. The last time we visited there were a group of kids playing in the park. This is always an exciting moment for a designer, seeing the landscape being used for the first time. The kids were running along the narrow “discovery trails” that wind through the planting beds. The kind of games we imaged during design were being played out in real life. Exciting stuff! It has been a real pleasure to team up with EMAAR Community Management and the Residents Board in making Lailak Street Park a reality.

Thanks also to the Verdaus team who helped to make this park a success: Andre Saladaga, Pierre Smit, Miguelito Cemine Pegi, and Laith Wark.

Sharjah Maritime Museum

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 way this space embraced a wide range of activities. There was a festival in full swing when we visited. This project is located on a culturally important site on the creek in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.


Scale is not only about the size of things, it’s also about the size of space. Scale has a surprisingly strong influence on the landscape design process and it’s outcomes. Getting scale right is sweet. Get it wrong, and no amount of fancy footwork will save you.

This blog post speaks about a challenging and uncommon scale – monumental.

The project was the new Parliament House of Oman.

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Lailak Street Park Closer!

Opening day edges closer and interest in Lailak Street Park keeps growing!

One resident living near by told us the unofficial-off-the-record-word is that it’s going to be the “best park in Dubai”. Well, we  certainly love that! We’re delighted that people are talking about it, and even visiting the site before opening day. It was the first time we’ve heard a non-landscape architect talk excitedly about paving patterns.

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4000 Trees for the Future!

Verdaus just received our certificate of support from Trees for the Future. They on a simple and great mission:

“Trees for the Future is dedicated to planting trees with rural communities in the developing world, enabling them to restore their environment, grow more food, and build a sustainable future.”

Verdaus wish TFF ongoing and increasing success in their mission of improving lives through planting trees. Here is a link to TFF’s financial data. Here is a link to make a donation to support TFF’s good work.

Trees for Future

Lailak Street Park Update

Construction on the Lailak Street Park is progressing well. Paving is currently being installed and it is exciting to see the patterns coming to life. This is the first project we designed a bespoke paving pattern for 100% of the project site. The intent is to stimulate delight, interest, and imagination. Each area is designed with a specific pattern. In some areas the pattern is intentionally random and complex. Other areas reveal recognisable shapes, intended to stimulate spontaneous invention of new games. In these cases, the regular patterns and shapes could be used to measure distance or boundaries. Other examples are areas of purely dark or light paving that could be drawn on by the kids.

While it is exciting to watch the park coming to life, we can’t wait for the day the kids will arrive!


One-Tree Street

“Walkable City” is an interesting book about urban design. The book promotes the idea that if you make a walkable city, you make a city which is good for people. The chapter, “Why Johnny Can’t Walk”, focusses on the health benefits of walkable cities, and conversely, the health risks of un-walkable places. There’s another book out there devoted entirely to this subject, “Urban Sprawl and Public Health”, written by Dr Richard Jackson in 2004.

Dr Jackson’s inspiration for writing came from observing a woman in her seventies, struggling in ninety-five degree heat (95F / 35C) with heavy shopping bags on the side of a seven lane motorway, with “no sidewalks and two miles between traffic lights”.

Here’s the interesting observation by Dr J., Continue Reading

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.


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.