Delving into the technologies building smart cities across the globe at the Middle East Smart Landscape Summit

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The 9th instalment of the Middle East Smart Landscape Summit returned last week for two full days of panels and keynote presentations exploring the latest advancements that are shaping landscapes and urban development across the globe. Held on the 31st of March and 1st of April at Le Méridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre, the Summit delved into the technologies and strategies that are helping to build happy, healthy and well-connected cities.

To kick off day one, Michael Austin from City of Bellevue, Washington joined us virtually for a keynote presentation on the Grand Connection public space project in the Seattle Metro Region. To follow, Khalid Meccai from Alyaf Geo explored sustainable landscaping practices and how they’re applicable in the Middle Eastern context. Bringing us up to the coffee break, Sherif Hosny from Schaduf explored the world of micro-farming and its effects on socio-environmental development.

After a break, delegates returned for the first panel session of the day. Featuring Ayub Hassan Algaferiof Al Ain Municipality, Husain Al Saeedi from Abu Dhabi City Municipality and Khaled Nawar from Hunter Industries, this session delved into the challenges and rewards of taking a sustainable approach to retrofitting. Nathan Chapman from Eva-Last was up next to give an insightful presentation on composite. From Modon Properties, Carlos Vieira discussed the need for balance between the old and the new when creating effective public spaces, particularly in the context of COVID-19. Up next, we heard from Fady Nassim of Jeddah Economic Company as he spoke on the need for a human-centric approach to urban design. A panel discussion between DJ Armin of ZAS Group, Ala Hason from HKS architects, Ewa Juszczyk from UA Architects and Neil Serridge from Benoy went into the dynamic role of the landscape designer and challenges faced when working in the arid Middle East. A quick address from Emir Ergec, from our lunch sponsor Gulf Perlite, carried us through to networking lunch and the end of day one.

To begin day two, Martha Schwartz of Martha Schwartz Partners and Steven Velegrinis from AECOMjointly presented on the deeper, structural aspects of landscape design beyond the aesthetics. Next, Rayya Jawhar from Buro Happold spoke on the nature-based solutions that are helping to create smarter, more sustainable cities. For the first panel of the day, Clinton Southorn from Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Matthew Perry from Dubai Golf, Stuart Horwood from Jumeirah Golf Estates and Toby Lumsden from Dubai Sports City discussed the role of landscape design in building great sports and recreational facilities.

Following the break, Baharash Bagherian from Diamond Developers took us through the next generaton of sustainable cities and demonstrated the impacts of urban design on community culture. Boris Fabinski then spoke on the challenges and benefits of green structures, specifically their impact on liveability. To round out the day and close the Summit, a panel discussion on urban dynamics and blue green infrastructure featuring Farah Yassine from WSP, George Arvanitis from RMJM, Manosh De from Jacobs CH2M, Marlon Van Maastricht from Khatib Al Alami and Nivine Issa from AESG.

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