August 5, 2021

Living Landscape


Award-winning London design studio Baharash Architecture saw off a shortlist of prominent international practices to land the second phase of the 46ha Dubai Sustainable City project.

Dubai Sustainable City is a project that will cover 46ha with 550 residential villas, organic farms, educational facilities and 600,000sq ft of solar panels. Each house within the city will be equipped with solar panels, which will provide residents with 60% of their energy needs. The project will also feature a smart water system that will reduce the water demand of buildings by 30%. Grey and waste water will be used to irrigate plants across the city, there will be a waste recycling system and 20 organic farms.

In 2013, Baharash Architecture beat an international field of contenders to win Phase 2 of Dubai Sustainable City. The brief for Phase 2 was to design a mix-use zone, a Juma mosque, an institute for ecological engineering, a museum and planetarium, a ‘green’ school for K-6, an eco resort, country club and equestrian centre.

Design and build

It takes a holistic approach to create a sustainable city. For Phase 2 of the project Baharash Architecture approached the design from the ground up by creating a variation of green space solutions that were integrated with the innovative buildings which it designed. In the eco resort, for example, to expand the landscape area and provide passive buffers between plots and resort zones, Baharash proposed a new typology of apartments with a continuous green landscape roof, which could be accessed from the main building. These ‘fingers’ were extended to the central spine, to take advantage of the views and bring guests closer to the central heart of the productive landscape.

Baharash then created breaks in the ‘fingers’ to provide opportunities for permeability, and better shared connectivity to the apartments. These breaks naturally occurred at the ends of each apartment block.

The apartments in the eco resort were designed to create tranquil and active zones. By positioning the villas in the heart of the tranquil zone, guests will experience what it feels like to live in the productive landscape. Each villa will have its own vegetable garden, and with the help of a chef, guests will be able to cook their own food produced from this landscape. The active zone is located on the key viewing corridor from the old city and central landscape, providing outdoor recreational areas at the resort.

The resort was designed to provide enough buffer space to allow for light electric vehicles and bicycles to access apartments and villas. Cars are parked in a semi-basement by valet parking, minimising the presence of cars in the resort.

Accessible green space has long been one of the key components to the success of some of the world’s most liveable cities. We designed the school to provide direct links and access to the central spine through the atrium. We also integrated the library within the heart of the school, which in the original brief was a separate building.

The active transport strategy helped to provide great space savings in the city, which meant we could expand the landscape area inside the Phase 2 into more varied, vibrant and healthy spaces. The mix-use area, for example, features a large public shaded plaza which is used for events and activities throughout the year.



At the concept stage we provided a list of targets and goals for the developer’s in-house team to follow when sourcing materials for the complete project. These were categorised into seven targets:

  • Design intent
  • Materials specification
  • Recycled content
  • Regional materials
  • Rapidly renewable materials
  • Responsible sourcing of materials
  • Designing for robustness

Using these targets and our concept designs, the final sourcing and selection of materials was undertaken by the developer’s in-house team.


One of the key challenges when working on a sustainable project is at the early stages. Basic design decisions such as orientation, density and form provide the biggest environmental gains, yet require the least financial investment. So at the early stages we are able to reduce a large amount of energy demand with little cost.

Another key challenge was working with the client and consultant team to develop a series of sustainable initiatives and targets. These targets helped guide the design in the pursuit of the sustainability goals. We divided some of these targets into categories:

  • Water
  • Health and well-being
  • Energy
  • Materials
  • Pollution
  • Ecology
  • Waste
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