desert INK’s design for this residential landscape property in Dubai marks a radical departure from regional trends. Composed to reflect this Emirati family of five’s lifestyle, the landscape incorporates dining, play, entertaining and cozy family spaces, while subtly addressing the need to screen the formal sections of the house and garden to ensure privacy from visiting guests. desert INK worked hand in hand with Dutch architects, UXUS, to compose this dwelling in which landscape and architecture conceal and reveal each other in turn, vistas and glimpses are carefully orchestrated and both are held together with a consistent rhythm of common materiality.
From a small, but dense verdant core of layered planting protecting the inner sanctum of family life in the elbow of the ‘L’-shaped villa, planting transitions towards a flowing, naturalistic xeriscape at the boundaries. This subtle graduation from tropical paradise to rolling dunes of indigenous species successfully balances the client’s requirements with desert INK’s sustainable goals. In limiting the extent of the thirsty tropical garden towards the villa, interior views, adjacent exterior terraces and general daily life is framed by a wonderful array of leafy, flowering plants and a stunning swimming pool. The use of local materials, notably plants, stones, and paving for the remaining majority of the garden, was a critical sustainability goal for desert INK which serves to reinforce the thematic transition from tropical core to wider regionally inspired landscape. Fusing a small portion of a verdant tropical style typically only found on distant shores, with a contemporary xeriscape vernacular, the design delivers upon the Client’s wishes to reflect their fondness for travel while simultaneously reflecting their deep affinity with the deserts and mountains of the UAE.
Measuring 10,630sqm this private garden is composed of several distinct zones, each with a defined purpose and aesthetic. Upon entering the property through a wonderful sliding weathered steel gate, visitors are met with a stunning view of the signature architectural lantern tower, framed by native Acacia trees. This tall, louvered tower hosting the main entrance at ground and study above, is flanked by desert INK’s xeriscape and a vehicle drop off. Combining a sunken dry wadi feature lined with local stones and billowing native and adaptive plants, the predominant beige tones of the hardscape and architecture are perfectly countered by the silvery, yellow, purple and deep greens of the xeriscape. Showcasing a zen-like flow of local stone slips between boulders, the dry wadi presents not only a visual feast, but a wonderful water-saving device.
Moving through the villa, visitors take in the wonderfully contrasting tropical scene through double-height glazing. A dark, rectangular pool aligns with the vista, providing a home for the family’s collection of Koi Carp, which gently disturb the surface sending reflected ripples onto the interior’s ceiling. Layers of exotic plants subtly hide views of the swimming pool from the formal wing of the interior, ensuring that swimmers are not revealed to guests. Meanwhile, shaded dining terraces seamlessly transition from the family wing, with full views of the shimmering swimming pool which graduates from a safe, shallow beach edge for the children, towards the deeper parts of the pool beyond. desert INK’s pool design reflects the philosophy that pools can deliver far more than just a place to swim. Featuring beautiful flush edges, in-pool seat, shallow areas and a long lap for exercise, the pool is a water feature, playscape, setting, place of exercise and contemplation all at once. An elevated outdoor teahouse marks the termination of the pool, complete with cascading reflection pools and a generous array of overlapping stepping platforms. For a moment, the tropical planting parts, revealing the infinity pool edge, providing a stunning view towards a wadi pond and invitation to explore the wider garden beyond.
Emerging through one of the numerous pathways which penetrate the tropical garden, guests join the main pathway which encircles the rear garden. This route moves past an oval function/play lawn and children’s garden before ascending to one of the many dunes from which stunning views of the garden are presented. Descending again, the pathway loops around the rear side of the pond and into the native gardens. The native gardens are composed of several flowing, irregular pathways between dunes and small valleys draped with local stones and plants. Enveloped in the native planting between dunes, visitors are treated to a rare botanical display of native grasses, perennials and trees which serve to hide, then reveal views and create a sense of discovery.
A truly unique composition, this property perfectly reflects the lives, passions, duties, and daily requirements of the family within. Showcasing a new xeriscape vernacular for the region, it marks the first of a new breed of designed landscapes which embraces the modern tastes of a younger, well-travelled generation of Emirati’s, while simultaneously reflecting a culture deeply rooted in the stunning natural desert and mountain environment.
Landscape architect: desert INK