Giant prehistoric gardens for Saudi desert


Barton Willmore, a leading British architecture and planning practice; and civil engineers, Buro Happold, have been commissioned to create a futuristic Eden Project style oasis called The King Abdullah International Gardens in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.

The project, which draws on expertise from the Natural History Museum, will see the creation of the single largest temperature-controlled garden in the world, dwarfing the giant bubbles of Cornwall’s Eden project.
It will incorporate cutting-edge techniques in power generation and water conservation designed to ensure the project is sustainable with minimal environmental impact. But most ambitious of all, the Barton Willmore and Buro Happold teams aim to give visitors an experience in botanical time travel by re-creating a series of landscapes showing how the planet and its plant life has changed over time.
Beginning with the origins of life, the gardens will reveal what the area on the outskirts of Riyadh in which the gardens are to be located, was like during pre-historic ages such as the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
 The centrepiece of the project, which will is due to be completed in 2010, is a 20 acre paleobotanic building, formed as two interlocking crescents which accommodate a sequence of controlled environments.
Each environment allows visitors to travel through time and experience the changes to plant life and landscape that have occurred on the spot where the gardens will be created. Each historical garden is to be presented as a complete environment, including those species from each era which survive to this day and accommodating the ‘ghosts’ of species that have been lost.
The garden’s power requirements will be supplemented by on-site renewable technologies.
 Nick Sweet, project director and Partner in charge of Urban Design at Barton Willmore’s London office commented: “This is a ground breaking project which draws together some of the best minds in sustainable construction, historical botany, ecology and design.
“In this day and age, we are all, to one degree or another, fearful of the rapid changes in climate change occurring in the world and many are uncertain about how to respond. We wanted to use the scheme to tell the story of a single piece of land through time. It might be a desert now, but there was a time when rivers flowed here and forests grew.”