Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Place: King Abdullah International Gardens, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (World’s Largest Covered Facility for Plant Life)


While visiting the section of Riyadh Municipality in Janadriyah Annual Heritage and Culture Festival on 17th January 2014, I came to know about King Abdullah International Gardens which are under construction in Riyadh and when completed, would be World’s Largest Covered Facility for Plant Life.


To read more about Janadriyah Annual Heritage and Culture Festival you can visit: Event: Janadriyah Annual Heritage & Culture Festival 29 (2014) (Updated)



Coordinates: 24.534553,46.462469

Google Maps Link:


Entrance: There would be a Ticket.

Size: 160 hectares (395 acres)

Cost: £100m ($200m) project

Status: Underground work is complete

Date of Competition: Unknown


This is a huge project! It is located in the South West of Riyadh and will rival those at Kew and Singapore. Standing on this scorched land on a scalding summer day it is hard to imagine that this forbidding landscape could ever have been anything other than hostile, hammered by an unforgiving sun and devoid of life, shelter or refuge.
And yet, there was a time... there was a time when great rivers flowed across this land, when rain fell in abundance and trees grew, sustaining creatures now long dead.


There are over 2,500 Botanical Gardens around the world. Some successful; some less so. Many are modeled on the traditional format of a collection of plants drawn together from the principal climatic zones of the world.

We feel that the King Abdullah International Gardens scheme presents an opportunity to explore and explain the extraordinary changes that continue to occur in the world’s ecosystems, culminating in an explanation of the choices available to us and a celebration of the wealth of the desert ecotope.

In the fast-moving, highly mobile society of the 21st century, we question the need for yet another globally based botanical collection in another city, however well presented. We would argue that a tropical rainforest is best explained by means other than creating a representation of Central Belize in Saudi Arabia. In an age of modern air travel, visitors can see a genuine rain forest within 4 or 5 hours flying time of Riyadh, and it would be a forest in all its glory, with the creatures and tribes that make its so extraordinary a community.

Given this view, we wanted to explore a subtly different approach to the core exhibit…the Botanical Garden. We wanted to use this opportunity to explain the process of change that our precious planet continues to move through. To do this, we imagine ourselves standing on this precise spot through the history of time, returning to the origins of life as we understand it, exploring, demonstrating and portraying the great paleobotanical ages that have swept across this land…showing our visitors the extraordinary plants
and physical features of this precise place beginning with the Devonian era, with the tectonic plates of the earth still shifting and the continents moving through the tropics like vast, floating islands, developing ecosystems that responded to the climatic conditions that prevailed at the time. We propose to record, explore and explain the great ages that have followed these origins: the Carboniferous, followed by the Jurassic, the Cretacious, the Cenozoic and the Pliocene, concluding in the present day, and the Garden of Choices.

In summary, we feel that the King Abdullah International Gardens should appeal to both the citizens of Saudi Arabia and international visitors on many levels. It should be exciting, interesting and a focus for thought. It should inform, entertain and educate. It should be unique, intriguing and appropriate for a modern capital city in the 21st century.

The Botanical Garden is proposed to be brought together as a crescent in a single, clearly understood building form, whose structure and fabric are capable of adaptation to the various environments that are proposed to be displayed within. The idea of a seed bank is not new, but Riyadh is an entirely logical location for the positioning of a specialist facility of this type, due primarily to the lack of humidity (and its attendant risk of germination) in this particular location.

The Wadi Garden aims to celebrate the extraordinary wealth of the current central Saudi Arabian ecotope, evolving into the ‘Garden of the Moon’ after nightfall.

Designing such an ambitious venture has not been easy, however. Keeping the gardens' various eco-systems cool in the blistering Saudi summer heat has been a major headache. 'We cannot just stick in a huge air conditioner to pump in vast amounts of cold air,' Sweet said. 'The running costs would be huge and it would send out the wrong ecological message. Instead we have built especially high domes. At some points, they will reach more than 120ft. Hot air will rise to the top and trap cool air at the bottom. We will then need relatively modest amounts of air-conditioning to cool the gardens at ground level.'

Each of the seven environments inside the £100m building, which will become the world's largest Teflon construction, will be powered by renewable sources, mainly solar and wind, while water will be stored in underground reservoirs beneath the domes.


Master Plan (Architecture)





Paleobotanic Gardens – Phase 1




Paleobotanic Gardens – Phase 2





More details of each Garden can be found on this link:


The Scientific Gardens

Our aim is that the Scientific Gardens should be fun, user friendly and should function as core components of the ‘entertainment’ programme, with access to all and children’s play (and therefore learning) knitted into the more adult experiences. This area of the scheme is generally located to the south west of the core Botanical Gardens structure, and will include the following:

The Water Gardens

An exploration of water in all its forms, from ice to snow, to water itself and then to steam. The visitor will be able to explore and enjoy this most precious resource in the understanding that all they see will have been harvested from the natural environment.

The Physic Garden

A classic garden brought up to date and interpreted through the power of Islamic geometry. The aim will be to provide a walled enclosure with displays that interpret the extraordinary range of medicinal applications discovered in the plant world through the ages, with specific reference to the teachings of the Bedouin tribes.

The Aviary

Rather that confining exotic birds in cages, this free-flight facility will allow a vast range of exotic species to be displayed and interpreted. The key message will be to convey the extraordinary fact that an area the size of the city of Riyadh is lost every four days through felling and clearance of the rain forests around the world. Our scheme will offer a fragment of the area being lost, yet will demonstrate the remarkable palette of plants, flora and fauna that exist there.

The Maze Garden

Offers a safe, well-supervised element that is fun, exciting and rewarding. Instead of the traditional hedges, we propose to ‘carve’ a low, walled maze from the living rock, ensuring that the exhibit is robust enough to avoid constant maintenance, yet bound into the theme of the overall scheme.

The Garden of Light and Sound

For this exhibit we expect to see the degree of visitor use increase in the evenings, as it offers an intriguing variation on the theme of the walled garden – a secret place that is only explained by entering the garden.

The Grotto

This is proposed as a secret extension of the central promenade, a magical place formed in the great tradition of grotto building, yet revealing the theme of water storage that is so critical to the scheme.

Passive resources

The scheme should offer many forms of recreation and education to many people. In the end, the educational element should be interesting and subliminal, rather than pompous and high-handed. In the Riyadh context, these include walking, seating, picnicking and play; all in a safe, controlled environment that is simply presented, beautiful and appropriate.

The cliff walk, watch towers, seating and picnic sites relate to the visitor parking facilities and are planned to support the more specific interpretive programme.



Padua Botanic Gardens, Italy, 1842

Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

Artist impressions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Archaeologists date the beginning of agriculture to approximately twelve thousand years ago. From this time mankind’s fascination with plant life and botany has grown and developed. This interest has been primarily focused on the growth of food, medical developments and for economic purposes.

One of the oldest known gardens are those of the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’, although it can be argued that Aristotle developed one of the first botanical gardens with the help of Alexander the Great one of Aristotle’s students and friends. Throughout Alexander’s conquests he would send back plants from distant countries for Aristotle to study and document. However, it was not until the renaissance that botanical gardens, as we understand them today, were planted.

The very first, those in Pisa and Padua of Italy, date from the 1540s. Botanical gardens were quickly developed in the Empirical countries within Europe: Holland; France and Britain, but it was the Dutch East and West India Companies, searching both for cures for tropical diseases and new commodities to monopolise, which set the standard. The Dutch set up botanic gardens in the Cape, Malabar, Java, Ceylon and Brazil, which exchanged plants with Amsterdam and Leyden.

After 1648 both France and Britain imitated the Dutch and formed their own overseas trading empires and were inspired in this way to also create botanical gardens in the colonies.

As the overseas trading empires grew, botanic gardens became primarily focused on the cultivation and production methods of economically valuable plants. Trade in exotic plants expanded enormously as exotic plants became fashionable throughout Europe. Eventually endangering the survival of several varieties of plants in their countries of origin, and when this happened botanical gardens became conservation specialists.

The Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) defines a modern botanic garden as “institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.” The BGCI also indicates that there are over 2,500 botanic gardens in the world, highlighting the popularity in the global community for the preservation and study of plant life, both endangered and flourishing.

There are few botanic gardens in the Middle East, mainly due to the inhospitable climate. However, this is not to say that it is impossible for botanic gardens to be created in this environment. In looking at examples of today’s botanic gardens from around the world, the research has been broken into four separate areas:

Empirical botanic gardens of Europe
• Jardin des Plantes – Paris, France
• Kew Gardens – London, UK

Botanic gardens in humid environments
• Singapore Botanic Gardens – Singapore
• Huntington Botanic Gardens – San Marino, California, US

Botanic gardens in dry and arid environments
• The Living Desert – Palm Desert, California, US
• Alice Springs Desert Park – Alice Springs, Australia
• Karoo Botanic Garden – South Africa
• Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden – South Africa

The innovative botanic garden
• The Eden Project - Cornwall, UK

Over the last few decades, science has increasingly depended on research carried out in laboratories and there has been a decline in the importance of botanical gardens for scientific research. On the other hand, public interest in plants and gardens is growing and for this reason plants are no longer arranged in botanical gardens by classifications, in accordance with the families to which they are related. Instead, they may be arranged through their geographical points of correspondence, in this way many botanical gardens have created charming miniature landscapes. In many conservatories one can enter little areas of rainforest, desert or misty mountain forest.




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