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As a designer for French company, Ego Paris, Thomas Sauvage has found that, along with aluminium, wood and resin are now also popular materials in outdoor design.
“Lacquered aluminium has a lightweight structure and is available with a UV resistant lacquer in a choice of colours, making it one of the best materials available for outdoor use,” he says. “Woven resin on an aluminium structure is a common feature in furniture, and Batyline mesh, which has an open weave, making it breathable and stretch resistant, is also UV resistant and rot proof so it is another popular choice” he adds.
The Middle East, and in particular the UAE, is an important market for Ego Paris, and Sauvage has noticed a trend in the region in recent years towards a more contemporary style when it comes to outdoor design fashions.
“Over the last five years or so there has emerged both a modern style and an exotic trend in landscaping design in the UAE. Only a few years ago, most of the offering was very traditional, but there is a much more contemporary feel now.
We can distinguish two major movements: a Latin style, with products made of curves and fluidity, and a Nordic style, which means more straight lines and geometric shapes.”
Dubai’s Zabeel Park is a clear example of this trend for the ultra-modern in outdoor design. The development, which cost AED186 million (US $51 million), opened in November 2005 and has what Dubai Municipality describes as a “high-technology theme.”
The 460,000m² park features a series of interactive displays including educational and recreational exhibits and is grouped into three separate parks; A, B and C.
Four gatehouse buildings, each with its own water feature, provide access to the park, and within Park A there are four major elements: a sports area, the star gate, an amphitheatre, and a gallery for displays and exhibitions.
Park B features a boating lake with a 30-m geyser fountain, as well as a BMX biking circuit, a mini golf course, a skateboarding park, an assault course and an adventure playground, while Park C includes a paved area for events and functions, with a permanent stage, space for large tents and floodlights.
Al Khatib Cracknell, the Middle East’s largest firm of landscape architects, was responsible for the Zabeel Park project and it commissioned David Harber, of UK-based David Harber Sundials, Sculptures & Water Features, to develop and construct three major design pieces for the public space.
One of these concepts, Cube, was inspired by the region’s connections with the origins of chess, and incorporated 384 panels of copper and mirror-polished stainless steel, forming a chessboard effect on each side. The two other pieces, Cone and Armillary Sphere were formed from hardwearing stainless steel. A team from the workshop, travelled from the UK to Dubai to manage the installation and alignment of the sculptures and sundial, which was undertaken using local contractors.
“This site offered a unique opportunity to produce a series of scintillating outdoor sculptures and a sundial, but in the kind of harsh climatic conditions which meant the choice of materials, the transportation schedule and the means of installation became almost as crucial to the success of the project as the designs themselves,” says Harber.
Outside of the city, however, far from the manicured greenery and contemporary styling of Dubai’s city parks, a very different approach to landscaping is being taken. Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa is set in 225km² of pristine desert landscape, 45 minutes from the city. It is the only resort in the area where visitors can experience the beauty and majesty of the desert and observe the indigenous wildlife.
Al Maha forms the core of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR), the Dubai’s first national park, which comprises a huge 4.8% of the emirate’s total land mass and is the largest piece of land ever dedicated to a single project in Dubai.
The Dubai Conservation Board manages the reserve out of the offices at the five-star Al Maha Resort, which ploughs a percentage of its revenue back into the maintenance and development of the reserve every year.
“The reserve was created in 2003, as [a combination of] unchecked development, camel overgrazing and general undervaluing threatened to overwhelm the desert’s fragile eco system,” explains Tony Williams, vice president, resorts and projects, Emirates. “The emirate’s constitution had to be amended to make the concept of a ‘national park’ into a legal entity.”
Now, protected by local environmental laws and royal decree, the reserve is being gradually nurtured into a thriving wildlife reserve. The number of visitors to the DDCR is pre-determined to provide an enhanced experience without overcrowding or causing damage to the location.
The area has been divided into various management zones, each used for different purposes, including specified routes for desert safaris and an exclusion zone dedicated to research. The reserve is also conducting best practice and training programmes for safari guides.
A variety of indigenous animal species, many of which are on the verge of extinction, have been released to roam free in their natural habitat.
Country Highlights: Middle
East & North Africa
The Gulf States continue to perform quite well in the overall Global Competitiveness Index rankings. The United Arab Emirates ranked 32nd, while Qatar moved up eight places to rank 38th.
Terms-of-trade gains linked to oil prices have boosted growth rates and reinforced already high levels of confidence in the business community resulting from ongoing institutional modernization and improvements in macroeconomic management.
However, in many of the resource-rich countries, the availability of public finance appears--at least for now--not to have translated into improvements in human capital. Such improvements would play an important role in helping these economies, which are highly dependent on oil and vulnerable to external shocks, to diversify their economic base.
Tunisia (30), the most competitive economy in the region, Algeria (76) and Morocco (70) all improved remarkably from last year, thanks in part to significant improvements in institutions. Egypt dropped nine ranks to 63rd this year, due to an extremely sharp drop of 58 places to rank 108 in the macroeconomy pillar, as it struggled with worsening government finances and a large debt ratio. It also fell back in the areas of higher education and training and innovation.
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