Blurring Thresholds by Nelisha Mehta (B.Arch Thesis)

nelishamehta



A thesis book for the Final Architectural Project submitted to the Deparment of Architecture,

School of Architecture, Art and Design, American University in Dubai

In partial fullfilment of the requirements for the Degree of

Bachelor of Architecture

Fall 2020



Copyright © 2020 by Nelisha Mehta

All rights reserved


Approval of the Thesis Book for Final Architectural Project

Department of Architecture,

School of Architecture, Art and Design, American University in Dubai

Student’s Full Name: Nelisha Mehta

Thesis Book Title: Blurring Thresholds

Student Signature: Date: 17 December 2020

Professor Name: Dr. Annarita Cornaro

Professor Signature:

Date:


Thesis Abstract:

Wetlands can be defined as, “areas where water is the

primary factor controlling the environment and the associated

plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at

or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered

by water.” There are three major classifications according

to RAMSAR Convention of wetlands - Marine and Coastal

Wetlands, Inland Wetlands, Human-made Wetlands.

Conceptually, wetlands can be seen as transitional spaces

between terrestrial and water bodies that maintain the balance

of the ecosystem. These transitional spaces are located where

the boundaries are blurred andare further emphasized by the

ever-changing quality of the fluctuating water table levels and

migration of birds and animals. Wetlands are one of the most

productive ecosystems in the world. They are ‘the cradles of

biodiversity’ and sustain numerous species of plants, animals,

and birds. Furthermore, these transitional spaces hold an

important value to humanity as they provide multifold economic

benefits such as fisheries, agriculture, energy sources, wildlife

resources along with tourism and recreation opportunities.

Unfortunately, these protected areas are one of the most

threatened ecosystems in the country due to the climate change

caused by developmental activities such as land reclamation,

construction of artificial islands, and overexploitation of

resources. Most of these activities in U.A.E. are done for two

reasons - improving the lifestyle of residents and attracting

visitors to the country to boost the tourism sector. These activities

may have led to an immediate increase in the tourism sector of

the country to approximately 8 million tourists in 2008; however,

the degradation of the wetlands of the country due to such

factors will ultimately lead to a decline in the tourism industry.

This research will investigate how ecotourism architecture

can sustainably revive and rehabilitate the degrading wetlands

of U.A.E. and how architecture in the natural ecosystems of

wetlands can help boost tourism industry in the country.

Moreover, this research will discover how the integration of

artificial spaces in natural environments can redefine the

relationship between humans and natural transitional spaces.

The United Arab Emirates is home to a total of 10 declared

RAMSAR Convention wetlands. These protected areas are located

in different emirates and have different classifications.

Keywords: Wetland Rehabilitation, Ecotourism, Sustainability,

U.A.E. RAMSAR Wetlands, Transitional Spaces, Thresholds,

Protected Areas



Acknowledgdements

To my parents, for never doubting me. To my sister, for always believing in me. To my dear friends, for their

never-ending support.

And finally, I would like to thank Dr. Anna Cornaro for guiding me through this architectural venture and seeing

potential in my fascination for conserving wetlands and protected areas.







1.1 Society of Wetlands

Ramsar Convention, the society of wetlands, defines wetlands

as, “areas where water is the primary factor controlling the

environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur

where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where

the land is covered by water.”(Ramsar Information paper no.1).

In other words, wetlands are vital ecosystems which are

dynamic in nature due to the fluctuating water table present

in these areas. Their water table levels are either close to

the surface of the earth or above it, submerging the land

underneath the water bodies. These ecosystems sustain various

distinct species of plants, animals and birds. In addition,

they provide a wide range of services to human beings.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was established in 1971 in

the Iranian city, Ramsar. Over the course of 50 years, the vision

of Ramsar Convention initiative has shifted. The organization’s

aim of protecting wetlands only for their importance to wildlife

has transformed into the goal of restoring them for their

optimized use to both, wildlife and people. Since it’s conception

169 countries, that is 90% of the UN member states have been

registered in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International

Importance, a list containing the wetlands in the different

countries of the world (Water Management Institute (IWMI) 3).

Figure 1.1: Ecology of wetland between terrestrial and aquatic systems

Figure 1.2: Ecology of wetland between terrestrial and terrestrial systems

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Each country has their own interpretations of what can and

cannot be constituted as a wetland. This further complicates

the task of measuring their accurate number and extent in

the world. However, according to UNEP-World Conservation

Monitoring Center, wetlands cover approximately 6% of the

Earth’s surface (Ramsar Information paper no.1). Wetlands

are classified into different types and categories based on

two major factors – the composition of the plant community

and the hydrogeomorphic features of the region. They are

further categorized on other factors such as permanent/

seasonal, flowing or static water bodies (Ehrenfeld 255).

Wetlands are commonly classified into five categories: Marine,

Estuarine, Lacustrine, Riverine, and Palustrine. Marine wetlands

encompass all coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons,

rocky shores, and coral reefs. Estuarine category of wetlands

includes deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps.

Lacustrine wetlands comprise of wetlands located near lakes,

while Riverine wetlands are associated with rivers and streams.

Wetlands classified as Palustrine, derived from the Latin word

meaning ‘marshy’, comprises of marshes, swamps and bogs.

However, the Ramsar Convention, classifies wetlands on

the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance

using a different system. This classification system is

called the ‘RAMSAR Classification of Wetland Type’ and

distinguishes wetlands into three broad categories – Marine

and Coastal Wetlands, Inland Wetlands and Human-made

Wetlands. These three categories are further subdivided

into 42 different types (Ramsar Information paper no.1).

Figure 1.3: Distribution of 6% wetlands in common types of wetlands

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Figure 1.4: Factors for classification of wetlands by Ramsar

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1.2 Significance of the Sustenance of Wetlands

Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems globally.

They are beneficial to three categories of living organisms

on Earth – animal kingdom, the plant kingdom and human

beings. They are significant in the sustenance of several

endangered species from the plant and animal kingdom as

they are the primary source of water for them. They are home

to high numbers of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals

and invertebrate species. Additionally, Marine and Coastal

Wetlands are home to coral reefs, that contain the most

diverse fish compositions in the world. They are also key

storehouses for genetic material of plants, earning the title,

‘the cradles of biodiversity’ (Ramsar Information paper no.1).

Furthermore, they have provided multiple benefits to humanity

throughout history. Many ancient civilizations like the Mayas,

Incas, and Aztecs in Latin America, Marsh Arabs in Mesopotamia,

and Khmer in Asia settled near these wetlands as they depended

on them for their livelihood. Nowadays, wetlands help to address

critical concerns of poor nutrition and lack of clean water for the

poor. For instance, in developing countries like Zambia, where

most of the population is poor, wetlands contribute to around

5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and in Tanzania’s

Kilombero Valley it makes up to 80% of cash income in the

poor households(Water Management Institute (IWMI) 3,5).

Figure 1.5: Venn theory depicting the three beneficiaries of wetlands

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The precise benefits of these ecosystems to the

three groups of living things depends on the specific

features of the site. Fundamentally, wetlands provide

four services – provisioning services, regulating

services, cultural services and supporting services.

Provisioning Services - The biological, physical and chemical

composition of these environments yields a crucial service

of provision of food and water. Since they are composed of

different species of flora and fauna, they are the cultivation

spaces of food – fishes, wildlife, fruits, and grains. For

instance, rice, which is a staple diet of at least half of

the world’s population, is widely grown in wetlands. In

addition, they deliver hydrological environmental services

by often acting as natural sinks for storage of freshwater or

rainwater, collecting groundwater from neighboring areas.

and spiritual beliefs have emerged from these lands. One example

is the Xixi Yangtze Delta Wetland in China, a Ramsar wetland

dates back to 5,000 years. Buddhists would gather to drink

water from these wetlands and constructed temples (estimated

construction AD 223) around these wetlands (Verschuuren 4).

They even provide aesthetic and recreational opportunities

such as wildlife tourism and biophilic experiences. On top

of that, the diverse ecosystem in wetlands provides ample

opportunities for formal and informal education and research.

Supporting Services - Since wetlands facilitate the

water regulation and flood control, it also accumulates

sediments as well as the retention of organic matter.

Also, it helps in the cycling of nutrients while sustaining

diverse flora and fauna (Wood et al. 1-42).

Regulating Services - Their locations and fluctuating water

levels further help to regulate the climate by acting as sinks for

greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane. This regulation

of climate influences the temperature and precipitation process

of a region, further increasing the provisional benefits like

rainwater harvesting from wetlands. Moreover, their key locations

along coastal plains help in water regulation and purification,

erosion regulation and flood control (Wood et al. 1-42).

Cultural Services - Wetlands hold a cultural meaning to many

groups of people during the course of history, as many religions

Figure 1.6: Rice agriculture in wetlands in Vietnam

Figure 1.7: Lingyin Temple, ancient Buddhist temple near Chinese wetland

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Figure 1.8: Chart depicting the four services provided by wetlands


1.3 Phenomena of Cyclic Threats to Wetlands

The misconception among people that the sole reason of wetlands

is to ‘serve’ humans is a major reason for the degradation and

loss of these valuable ecosystems. Human activities within

the wetland area or in their surrounding areas have greatly

and irreversibly altered the natural functioning and ecological

processes of these wetlands. Presently, we are stuck in dual

vicious cycles where human activities meant to benefit from the

biodiverse environment are the same activities that have resulted

in them being one of the most threated ecosystems in the world.

Fresh water consumption of the world increased six times

between 1900 and 1995. This increase in the demand of

fresh water has put immense strain on the resources these

wetlands can provide. Similarly, as people in poverty try to

earn their livelihood from agriculture in these wetlands, they

overexploit these assets which threaten the very existence

of the source of their livelihoods, and the phenomenon

continues. Moreover, extensive agriculture can also pollute

the water due to the use of fertilizers pesticides and other

chemical products and it can eradicate the accumulation

of organic matter and important sediments from the soil

composition, ultimately leading to infertile wetlands. As the

population increases, the demand for food and clean water

would also increase; thus, creating a tremendous strain on the

continuing existence of these wetlands. This phenomenon can

be seen in the case of China in the Sangiiang Wetland

in Heilongjiang Province where the area of the wetland

declined from 5.36 million hectares to 1.04 Mha by 2000.

The evident need of economic growth paves a clear path for

developmental activities by the inhabitants such as land

reclamation, construction of dams, artificial islands and other

pollutant activities, which would drastically intensify the

speed of climate change, ultimately escalating the pressure

on wetlands. As the climate change intensifies, these wetlands

will be modified. Studies show that we have already lost 50%

of coral habitats globally due to rising sea temperatures

(Stevens); and is estimated to lose 22% of coastal wetlands

by 2080 due to an increase in sea levels. The modification of

these wetlands will result in losing the services they provided

earlier, which in turn would lead to a decline in the economy

(Water Management Institute (IWMI) 6-16). For example, the

constructions of dams in Hadejia-Nguru wetland in Nigeria

with intentions of improvement in the well-being of the

people, led to a decrease in the water flow into the wetland,

thus affecting the fishing and agricultural opportunities for

the people. This led to people exploiting other resources

that the wetland had to offer, leading to the degradation of

the wetlands and in turn leading to the decline in people’s

livelihoods and well-being (McCartney and Rebelo 212-218).

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The duality phenomenon of these cyclic threats has changed

the perspective of people from a pure conservation focus to

integrating people-centric sustainable development within

conservation goals and aligning it with the ‘wise-use’ principle

put forward by Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1987.

Figure 1.9: Depleting area of Sanjiang wetlands, China

Figure 1.10: Degradation of Hdejia Nguru wetland due to dam construction

Figure 1.11: Flow chart depicting the first cycle of wetland threats

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Figure 1.12: Flow Chart depicting the second cycle of wetland threats

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2.1 Approach of Sustainable Tourism by Ramsar Convention

The unceasing degradation and loss of urban wetlands due to

increasing population and human activities for development,

has made the revival and rehabilitation of these ecosystems

in urban spaces an urgent priority (Ravit et al. 459). Even

though tourism was prevalent in these ecosystems, they

were never considered as conservation strategies by the

Ramsar Convention. However, in Romania in July 2012, the

Ramsar Convention held its first conference to discuss on

wetlands, tourism and recreation. The conference recognized

that sustainable tourism methods aligning with the ‘wise use’

principle of the Convention will lead to the conservation of the

endangered wetlands. Globally, multiple opportunities for the

development of tourism and recreational activities are available

on wetlands. The powerful relationship between people and

nature attracts people to natural ecosystems such as wetlands

(Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention 2012 on Wetlands 14-15) .

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

defines sustainable tourism as, “Tourism that takes full

account of its current and future economic, social and

environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors,

the industry, the environment and host communities.”

(UNWTO 2011). This ‘green tourism’ follows the principles of

sustainability which are key to today’s tourism businesses.

Sustainability practices are responsible practices that trigger

financial benefits as they attract tourists to interesting

landscapes and wildlife, while ensuring that their ecological

processes are well-maintained and preserved. The simple

definition of ‘wise use’ principles by Ramsar Convention is

the maintenance and restoration of the ecological features,

processes, and services of wetlands. In accordance with

these two conservation methodologies, several types of

sustainable tourism practices can occur in and around

wetland ecosystems such as adventure and cultural tourism,

marine and coastal recreational activities, hiking, mass

tourism, and nature-based tourism including ecotourism

(Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention 2012 on Wetlands 20).

Furthermore, sustainable tourism creates an array of possibilities

by providing jobs and other monetary advantages. For instance,

the ministry of environment and tourism in Namibia states

that tourism accounted for 14.2% Of the country’s GDP in 2007.

Effectively planned and carefully organized, responsible tourism

can help in the restoration and conservation of wetlands

through an increase in awareness (Secretariat of the Ramsar

Convention 2012 on Wetlands 26-29). UNWTO and United

Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) state that there are

12 demarcations for sustainable tourism to be truly sustainable.

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They are economic viability, local prosperity, employment

quality, social equity, visitor fulfillment, local control,

community well-being, cultural richness, physical

integrity, biological diversity, resources efficiency, and

environmental purity (UNEP and UNWTO 2005 25-46). These

twelve factors fulfill the three E’s rule of sustainability -

Equity, Environment, and Economy as defined by UNWTO.

Figure 2.1: Division of the 12 UNWTO and UNEP criteria for sustainable tourism

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2.2 Debate between Constructed and Unconstructed Wetlands

The obvious approach to tourism in natural environments

is the construction of visitor centers or resorts. The

construction of these facilities in natural ecosystems can

have polarizing implications. For example, the ecological

restoration in Bang Tao Bay in Phuket by the Banyan Tree

Group (a hospitality brand), successfully invested USD 200

million and transformed an abandoned polluted wasteland to

a successful resort. They adopted sustainable principles and

planted more than 7000 native plants which appealed to the

diverse birds and animals in the region, effectively restoring

the flora and fauna. Laguna Phuket Resort also provided

various economic benefits like job opportunities to the local

communities in the construction and hospitality sectors

(Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention 2012 on Wetlands 57).

On the other hand, in Skokjan Caves in Slovenia, the government

had invested 430,000 Euros to construct a visitor center, walkways

and other amenities like restaurants and museums between

1999 and 2010, in the hopes of conservation and boosting their

tourism industry. Unfortunately, the lack of creative tourism

products led to a decline in number of tourists over the years from

an average of 12,900 to 3,500 tourists in a month. This example

illustrates the importance and balance of all three contributors

of a sustainable design. The decline in tourist satisfaction led to a

decline in the sustainable tourism practices, ultimately affecting

the economy of the region and maintenance of the caves.

(Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention 2012 on Wetlands 47,61).

Constructed tourism spaces do not always translate to successful

examples for the implementation of sustainable tourism.

There are various wetlands on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of

International Importance that are unconstructed yet ensure

responsible harmonious tourism. One such example would be

Lake Nakuru in Kenya. This Ramsar site is one of the symbols of

tourism in Kenya, a country whose international tourism is based

widely on the native wildlife. The main tourism opportunities

offered in the national park are activities that do not require

permanent infrastructures such as bird watching, game drives

and safaris (RAMSAR, Wetland Tourism : Kenya – Lake Nakuru.

While tourism in wetlands provide various benefits to the

society, if poorly managed they can pose as challenges to the

existence of these ecosystems. Some of these concerns include

unsustainable maintenance of the biodiversity by tourists, risk

of alteration of existing habitats and ecological processes,

improper use of land and resources for recreational activities

and so on. The opposite is also true, the alterations of

the ecological traits of the wetland ecosystem can alter

the services they provide including tourism (Secretariat

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of the Ramsar Convention 2012 on Wetlands 32-33). There is no

proper construction of designated tourist facilities in the case of

Tsomoriri wetland in Ladakh, India – a picturesque lake visited

by domestic and international tourists every year. The peak

tourism period occurs simultaneously with the peak reproduction

periods of the fauna in the lake. Unregulated campsites scattered

about the wetland region encouraging water activities during

these periods negatively affect the breeding processes of the

species (RAMSAR, Wetland Tourism : India – Lake Tsomoriri).

In conclusion, the strong attraction of people towards nature

especially wetlands helps create a platform for the rising tourism

industry in the wetland regions. The inherent natural, cultural and

historical features of wetlands are the key ingredients in boosting

tourism of these environments; hence, these organic resources

need to be protected and enhanced. One of the most effective

methodologies of protecting these ecosystems through tourism

is the implementation and execution of sustainable tourism or

ecotourism practices within these wetlands by the involvement

of government, facility staff and local communities. These

green investments and tourism policies would accommodate

benefits to human beings as well as the flora and fauna in the

sites as they would minimize the dangers and unfavorable

effects as compared to other forms of tourism. The cyclic model

of tourism, wetlands and the environment of a nation should be

studied before the formation of such policies and investments.

Figure 2.2 (Top Left): Laguna Phuket - hotel built on wetlands of Bang Tao Bay,

Phuket, Thailand.

Figure 2.3 (Top Right): Skokjan Caves in Slovenia - constructed trails and

bridges in wetland

Figure 2.4 (Bottom Left): Lake Nakuru in Kenya - safaris around wildlife

Figure 2.5 (Bottom Right): Lake Tsomiri, Ladakh, India - unregulated camps

set up

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3.1 Cyclic Model of Tourism, Protected Areas and Environment

A cyclical relationship exists between tourism, environment

and protected areas such as wetlands and the control of the

governmental policies over them. As proven in the previous

chapter, tourism and recreational activities and protected areas

are “natural partners” (Bushell and Bricker 4). These activities,

if done correctly, provide economic benefits to the GDP and

the sites themselves, increase awareness of conservation

practices while restoring and rehabilitating these endangered

ecosystems. One of the key benefits of implementing tourism

within protected areas like wetlands is the financial support

that they provide to the maintenance of these areas. Visitor

entry fees, tourism operator fees, licenses and concessions from

tourists who visit these areas raise a huge amount of funding

for the support of these areas (Bushell and McCool 12-26).

The second aspect of this cyclic relationship is the relation between

the conservation of protected areas and the protection of the

environment. For years, protected areas have been the primary

global strategy for the preservation of nature (Leverington

et al.). This is because the protected areas are declared as

protected regions because of the biodiversity that inhabits it.

Protecting these spaces will ultimately lead to the protection of

he biodiversity. One of the approaches to conserve these regions

and the environment is through tourism. Tourism provides

opportunities to foster awareness and admiration for

protected areas. It also helps in changing the attitudes

of people on the topics and issues of biodiversity

protection and conservation and environmentally

responsible business practices (Bushell and Bricker 1).

Another aspect of the circular relationship is the direct relation

between tourism and environment. Tourism and environment

are two sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand. The

tourist experiences a synthetic or natural destination in a

specific environment governed by climatic factors. These

climatic factors are negatively changing due to global warming

caused by the negative impacts of the greenhouse effect (Vij

and Vij 41). NASA describes greenhouse effect as, “process

that occurs when gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s

heat. This process makes Earth much warmer than it would

be without an atmosphere.” (NASA Climate). Moreover, the

synthetic destinations would not exist without the exploitation

of natural resources. The management of such synthetic

environments allows for the excessive consumption of energy.

Thus, sustainable tourism needs to be practiced in order

to achieve the win-win model of sustaining environment,

protecting areas while generating economic benefits.

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According to the International Union for Conservation of

Nature (IUCN), the most effective method to regulate all

three factors – environment, protected areas, and tourism -

in a nation is through the governmental policies (Bushell and

Bricker 1). Many countries have started to understand and

develop this cyclic model. In the words of Robert E. Rubin,

co-chairman of Council on Foreign Relations, and former U.S.

Secretary of the Treasury, “We do not face a choice between

protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We

face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting

our environment – or allowing environmental havoc to create

economic havoc.” The adoption of sustainable tourism practices

by the government should be done after an extensive research

of the tourism trends, and the environment of the country.

Figure 3.1: Relationship between tourists, environment, protected areas and

government

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3.2 Tourism Trends in U.A.E

For the past decades, U.A.E has grown as a popular destination

for international and domestic tourists, providing them with an

extensive range of recreational activities. In 2008, U.A.E hosted

approximately eight million visitors. However, in the same year,

the country ranked the highest carbon footprint per capita in

the world. U.A.E ‘s Total Ecological Footprint (TEF) was 10.8

global ha/person more than the global average TEF of 1.8 global

ha/person. Many environmentalists believe the reason is the

unsustainable exploitation of resources for the development

of the country’s infrastructure (Vij and Vij 41-43). These largescale

development projects such as land reclamation, artificial

islands, shopping malls, skyscrapers etc. were built with

intentions of increasing the revenue and GDP of the country by

boosting the tourism industry. The tourism industry accounted

for 12.1% of U.A.E’s total GDP in 2016 (Travel and Tourism - The

Official Portal of the UAE Government). However, these tourismcentric

projects in U.A.E. aided the increase in the country’s

carbon footprint. Furthermore, transportation of tourists via

air, water, or land across nations to the country contributes

to the emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

The correlation between environment and tourism is permanent,

uncontested, and significant to the tourism sector. Also, tourist

and recreational landscapes are essential cultural aspects in the

formation of a tourist identity of any region and the development

negotiations for it (Terkenli 282-283). A trend of individuality

exists in the tourism industry in U.A.E. In other words, the

tourism sector of the country is divided by the seven emirates.

Many environmentalists believe that the environment pays

a heavy price for the tourism development in U.A.E. Thus,

tourism is a promoter and victim of climate change in U.A.E.

Figure 3.2: Negative cycle between U.A.E.’s tourism sector and environment

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Units : Tonnes of CO2

0.02-2.00

2.01-5.00

5.01-10.00

10.01-30.00

30.01-60.00

Figure 3.3: CO2 emissions per capita of U.A.E. in 2007

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Units : Tonnes of CO2

0.02-2.00

2.01-5.00

5.01-10.00

10.01-30.00

30.01-60.00

Figure 3.4: CO2 emissions per capita of U.A.E. in 2017

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The study of tourism activities in relation with the landscape

of each emirate supports the argument that each emirate

has a unique tourism identity that complements the touristic

image of the other emirates, rather than competing with

them. The difference in the tourism images of the countries

has led to different governing tourism departments for each

emirate. These departments have different individual goals

and policies for the tourism development of the unique

image of their emirate. They are accountable for the tourism

policies and strategies of their respective emirates. The

difference in these tourism images and policies is highlighted

below, starting from the largest emirate and going north.

Each emirate has an individual touristic image and reputation

leading to variations in tourism policies; all the seven emirates

and their tourism departments aim to implement sustainable

tourism practices to make U.A.E. a sustainable destination

for visitors while protecting these natural landscapes and

preserving their culture and heritage. These sustainable

tourism practices will also help to offset the damages caused

to the environment because of the regular tourism activities

of the country in the past. A step to achieve this goal is by the

adoption of eco-friendly and sustainable tourism in protected

areas like wetlands in U.A.E. However, it is not sufficient to only

understand the tourism trends in a country. In order to correctly

implement ecotourism within wetlands, it is necessary to have

a deeper understanding of these protected areas as well.

Figure 3.5: Table of seven emirates and it’s tourism image

Figure 3.6: Location and territories of seven emirates in U.A.E.

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Abu Dhabi

The largest emirate by area and home to the capital city of the

country, Abu Dhabi is a recognized international destination for

visitors. The emirate began investing heavily in tourism sector

from the 1990s to create the image of an international destination

and to expand the emirate’s economic portfolio beyond oil

production (Sharpley 221-235). Abu Dhabi has established it’s

identity as an tourist destination rich in Emirati culture and

traditions (Low). The emirate comprises of three major regions

– the capital city, Al Ain in the East and Al Dhafra area in the

west. Vast areas of the emirate are covered in sand dunes of the

Empty Quarter desert, home to the world’s tallest sand dune, Tel

Moreeb. The capital city, Abu Dhabi City is home to 300 ‘barasti’

(palm fronds) huts, a few coral buildings and the Ruler’s fort. In

addition to these heritage sites, nowadays the city is towering

with high rise buildings and exquisite architecture that represent

the nation’s past such as Qasr Al Watan Palace, a palace museum

of the heritage of the country; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the

largest mosque in the country; Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art and

civilization museum. Abu Dhabi is the melting pot of culture,

heritage, history, nature, wildlife, luxury, beaches and shopping.

Parts of Al Ain are a UNESCO world heritage site and is known

as the green garden city. It boasts structures with historical

significance and the infamous Al Ain Oasis, host to 147,000 date

palms and old irrigation systems, fajaj. Al Dhafra region in the

West stretches along kilometers of coastlines and consists of

luxury resorts, beaches and islands, incredible wildlife, sand

dunes and historic forts (Abu Dhabi Regions|Visit Abu Dhabi).

The emirate aims to achieve sustainable and environmental

awareness through it’s tourism activities (TCA Abu Dhabi).

Figure 3.7 (Top Left) : Palm Frond, Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, Abu Dhabi City

Figure 3.8 (Top Right): Al Ain Oasis, Al Ain

Figure 3.9 (Bottom Left): Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi City

Figure 3.10 (Bottom Right): Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi City

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Dubai

The emirate of Dubai is situated to the north of the emirate of Abu

Dhabi and is the second largest emirate in the country. According

to Govers, Dubai is the most recognized international tourist

destination in the Middle East and garners the most popularity

amongst visitors out of the seven emirates in U.A.E. He states

that the emirate is in danger of establishing itself “like the Las

Vegas of Middle East” (Govers 48-57). Dubai has earned it’s

place as the most luxurious, architecture and shopping oriented

emirate in U.A.E. due to the heavy investments made in modern

architecture and shopping sites since the 1980s, a decade before

Abu Dhabi deeply ventured into the tourism industry (Martens

and Reiser 62). It is regarded as one of the most cosmopolitan

cities in the world. Dubai is divided into 19 districts, each district

shares its unique stories with the people. It is a transient city

and is home to more than 200 nationalities (Explore Dubai).

While luxurious modern structures and cityscapes like Burj

Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Mall, Palm Jumeirah Islands are the

face of tourism of Dubai in media, it is also home to historic

wonders such as the historic buildings near the Dubai Creek, Al

Fahidi Fort, Al Fahidi district, Al Shindaga historic district and

Hatta Heritage Village. It is believed to be a land of possibilities

and innovations. The current plans and goals of the emirate is to

invest in sustainable tourism and tourism catering to middle class

visitors by building more affordable hotels (Jürs 74-76; DST).

Figure 3.11 (Top Left): Al Fahidi Fort, Al Fahidi Area, Dubai city

Figure 3.12 (Top Right): Atlantis hotel at Palm Jumeirah Island

Figure 3.13 (Bottom Left): Burj Al Arab, Dubai city

Figure 3.14 (Bottom Right): Aerial view of Dubai city with Dubai’s skyline

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Sharjah

Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the U.A.E by size. It is the

only emirate of the nation to have terrestrial bodies along the

coasts of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. UNESCO (United

Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has

declared the emirate as the ‘Islamic Cultural Capital of the Arab

world’ in 2014 and ‘Arab Tourism Capital’ in 2015. The tourism

in the emirate follows halal practices and is known as halal

tourism (Maharani and Ulum). It has a rich composition of

heritage sites, archaeological areas and spaces that promote

Islamic art and architecture (Madichie and Madichie). It is rich

in literature and culture. The emirate is divided into three main

regions – Sharjah City, Central Region and the East Coast. The

Sharjah city, constructed around a large lagoon, has over 20

museums, and galleries that exhibit contemporary artworks,

valuable paintings and Islamic artifacts providing an extensive

comprehension on the history of the nation. The city also boasts

several outdoor activities such as trekking and camping. The

landscape of the central region is filled with desert sands and

rocky-mountains that hold the remains of fossils, making them

key archeological sites. The region is also home to small villages

where the Bedouin culture is still significant. The East coast

overlooking the Gulf of Oman is home to seaside villages, natural

mangroves reserves and clear beaches providing visitors ample

opportunities for outdoor activities (Visit Sharjah - Regions).

The target of the emirate under the Sharjah Tourism Vision

2021, set by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development

Authority aims to captivate the attention of more than 10 million

visitors by 2021 using sustainable tourism methods (SCTDA).

Figure 3.15 (Top Left): Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah city

Figure 3.16 (Top Right): Mleiha Fort Archaelological Site

Figure 3.17 (Bottom Left): Khor Kalba Corniche, East side of Sharjah emirate

Figure 3.18 (Bottom Right): Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah

46



Ajman

Nestled between the emirates of Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain,

Ajman is a laid-back coastal emirate with various recreational

activities amidst a friendly environment. The theme of the

emirate’s tourism policies follows a major theme in the Emirati

culture – hospitality (Ajman Department of Tourism). It

comprises of long sandy beaches, resorts, archaeological sites

and natural landscapes that give an insight into the culture

of the emirate (Malls et al. 16). The emirate, like the emirates

of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, is segregated into 3 divisions – the

Ajman city, Masfout and Al Manama. Ajman city is a coastal

city with beaches and mangroves, museums, malls and various

leisure spaces that cater to a diverse age group. Masfout

region, a 90-minute drive from the city, is enclaved by the Hajar

Mountains and provides adventurers with outdoor activities on

cooler elevated altitudes. Al Manama is located at the foothill

of the Hajjar mountains on the east side of the emirate. It is

home to three ancient fortresses and is known for it’s wild

honey and pleasant sceneries. The Ajman Strategic Plan for

Tourism 2015-2021 aims to promote sustainable tourism

and continuous innovations in the tourism sector (Travel

and Tourism - The Official Portal of the UAE Government)

Figure 3.19 (Top Left): Masfut Castle on top of a rocky mountain

Figure 3.20 (Top Right): Ajman Museum, Heritage Village

Figure 3.21 (Bottom Left): Seneyah Island, hidden island of Ajman

Figure 3.22 (Bottom Right): Ajman mangroves in Al Zorah provide water sports

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Umm Al Quwain

The emirate of Umm Al Quwain is the smallest emirate in U.A.E.,

located along the west coast between the emirates of Ajman and

Ras Al Khaimah. It is the most historic emirate out of the seven

emirates in U.A.E. It has a retro feel to it and is known as ‘anti-

Dubai’, with only a handful of resorts. The emirate, under the

guidelines of Department of Tourism and Archaeology of Umm

Al Quwain, promotes and preserves this history along with their

beautiful beaches under it’s tourism initiatives (Department of

Tourism and Archaelogy - Government of Umm Al Quwain). It

consists of many islands, including Al Sinniyah Island that is

home to a marine sanctuary. It is home to various archaeological

sites, including Ed Dur, a historic landmark since the 100 AD.

The archaeological evidences uncovered by historians and

archeologists from the emirate show it’s relations with the

ancient civilization, Mesopotamia (The Official Portal of the UAE

Government). The emirate is the perfect spot for water sports

including water parks, dhow building, and camel racing. It is

also perfect for history lovers as it has a renovated ancient fort,

Umm Al Quwain Museum along with other archaeological sites.

Figure 3.23 (Top Left): Umm Al Quwain National Museum

Figure 3.24 (Top Right): Ed Dur Temple, Archaeological site in UAQ

Figure 3.25 (Bottom Left): Dhow building shows for tourists

Figure 3.26 (Bottom Right): Archeaological artifacts from ancient sites

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Ras Al Khaimah

Situated in the northern part of U.A.E, bordering Sultanate

of Oman and other emirates of the country. RAK is the fourth

largest emirate with a rich history and culture that translates

towards its heritage sites such as Dhayah Fort, Julfar and Al

Hamra island. It’s landscape is heterogenous with a stretch of

sandy coast to the west and the Ras Al Jabal Mountains (part

of Hajar Montain Range) to the East. This mountain range was

formed millions of years ago and includes the peak of Jebel

Jais, the highest summit in U.A.E. The desert of Ras Al Khaimah

has a unique red sand that is filled with greenery during the

winter monsoons. The hot springs, mangrove forests and salt

flats support various wildlife and adds to the natural appeal

of the emirate (Tourism Development Authority RAK). The

emirate is known for folklore, folk dances, traditional music and

arts that reflect the characteristics of the tribal communities

that inhabit the emirate. Moreover, the differences in the

landscape of the emirate divide these tribal societies into three

communities with slight cultural differences. The emirate is also

rich in ancient sites from bronze age that adds another layer

of depth to the tourism of the emirate (Tourism Development

Authority RAK). The first tourism strategy for the emirate

was the “Destination Ras Al Khaimah 2019” that narrated

the guidelines the tourism authorities should follow for the

growth of the industry. One such guideline is the incorporation

of sustainable green methods in tourism (Carrillo and Frei).

Figure 3.27 (Top Left): Dhaiyah Fort, Ras Al Khaimah

Figure 3.28 (Top Right): Sieh Al Herf, Archaeological site in Ras Al Khaimah

Figure 3.29 (Bottom Left): Jabal Al Jais, highest peak in U.A.E.

Figure 3.30 (Bottom Right): Al Jazirat, Al Hamra, ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah

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Fujairah

Fujairah is the only emirate of U.A.E that does not have any

territory along the west coast and does not have a desert. It is

surrounded by mostly mountains of Al Hajar mountain range

and faces the Gulf of Oman on the east coast. The emirate of

Fujairah is nicknamed as the Land of Titans and is unofficially

called ‘the Jewel of the Middle East’. It has been named so

because of the fleet of Al Hajar Mountains that are present

in the emirate. It is home to the only waterfall in U.A.E. These

natural landscapes along with the coastal beaches are the

primary selling factors of the emirate to visitors (Government

of Fujairah). The Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Association

aims to work towards the integration of unique tourism

products promoting their culture and heritage to emerge as an

international tourist destination (Vij and Verma). The emirate

is home to ancient sites such as the Fujairah fort, Fujairah

Heritage Village etc. Visitors can also behold the spectacle of

bullfighting, a traditional sport, on weekends during the winter

season. When travelling along the road from the emirate of

Dubai to Fujairah, one can purchase local agriproducts, and other

locally produced ethnic articles such as carpets and pottery

(The Official Portal of Fujairah Government Tourism in Fujairah).

Figure 3.31 (Top Left): Fujairah Fort, Fujairah city

Figure 3.32 (Top Right): Fujairah Heritage Village, Fujairah city

Figure 3.33 (Bottom Left): Bithnah Fort, Al Hajar Mountain Range

Figure 3.34 (Bottom Right): Fujairah Corniche hosts bull fights every weekend

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4.1 Wetland Exhibition in the U.A.E. National Pavilion at Venice Biennale

In recent years, U.A.E. has started understanding and

acknowledging the importance of wetlands and how architecture

can benefit from it. The National Pavilion U.A.E. will exhibit

the architectural exhibition Wetland by waiwai at the 17th

International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale

in 2021 following the exhibition’s theme of ‘how we will live

together”. Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, the curators

of this research in architecture firm will present the results

of the exploration and studies of how salt compounds of the

Sabkhas (salt-flats) in UAE can be used as renewable building

materials, alternatives to different preexisting architectural

structural elements like portland cement, the production of

which has a 1:1 ratio with carbon dioxide emissions. One ton

of portland cement emits one ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

In other words, wetlands of U.A.E. provide salt compounds and

other minerals that can replace the portland cement with a

sustainable renewable material (The National Pavillion U.A.E.).

Wael Al Awar categorizes their experiments into four parts.

The first part of the experiment is to submerge tensile fabrics

into a highly saturated saline solution for crystallization to

occur. This experiment created an architectural shell material.

The second experiment was to create building blocks from

different types of wetland minerals. These blocks were stacked

using a salt solution, replacing the commonly used mortar,

in order to create a rigid wall structure. The third part of the

experiments created an alternative to portland cement from the

mix of minerals found within the wetlands in U.A.E. This mixture

was poured into molds to create modular architectural slabs,

which are stacked together to fulfill space requirements. The

fourth and final experiment approach was to pour the same

renewable cement mixture into molds as the third experimental

approach. However, the mods were of different forms and

irregular shapes. The fourth stage will be the main exhibit in the

2021 Venice Biennale exhibition and is being concealed until the

surprise reveal at the exhibition in Venice ____(Designboom).

The first three approaches in experimentations of the variations

in building material can be found exhibited in their laboratory

at Al Serkal Avenue in Dubai. During the interview with Ms.

Lujaine Rizk, a lab and research coordinator for the curators of

National Pavilion U.A.E., she further elaborates on the results

of the first three experiments. Since the first experiment used

high amounts of salt in the crystallization process, the resulting

shell was not durable as this salt reacted to the external

environment. Thus making the salt shell a glamorous, nondurable

temporary material. The next experiment was mixing

a composition of salt with other materials, including sand,

57


plaster, clay and portland cement to create durable blocks that

can partially replace cement. These blocks were made using

the anneholtrop technique from Bahrain and Denmark. In this

technique, the formwork is replaced by rough shapes made in

the soil, in which the mixture is poured. Some of these blocks

showed effects of crystallization overtime, depending on their

chemical composition. For instance, bricks containing borax did

not show reactions to external environments over the one and

half year period of time. During this process, the curators and

their team learned of the MGO cement brick produced by NYU

Ember. This is a salt cement made from salt brines produced

during desalination of sea water. Natural finishes of different

salt compositions were further tried on these bricks. These

bricks take threedays to cure as compared to concrete. However,

they are more expensive than concrete as they require a special

carbon dioxide chamber for the curing process. These bricks are

small in size due to the chamber requirements and have carbon

absorbing qualities. According to Ms. Rizk, the curators were also

inspired by salt architecture that has been in existence for years

in areas such as Siwa Oasis, Egypt. The experiments on display

include large scale slabs made of sabkha materials, and mortar

block object made from crystallized salt from these salt flats.

Figure 4.1 (Left): First experiment of salt crystallization

Figure 4.2 (Top Right): Second experiment of modular bricks

Figure 4.3 (Bottom Right): Third experiment of modular slab

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4.2 Distribution of Wetlands Across the Emirates

As seen earlier, the implementation of sustainable tourism

in the natural ecosystems like the wetlands of U.A.E can help

in protecting the environment while boosting the nation’s

economy. U.A.E ratified and joined the Ramsar convention in

2007. In 2018, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment

hosted the 13th conference of contracting parties to the Ramsar

Convention on Wetlands. The nine day conference followed

the theme of ‘Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future’ and

was held in Dubai. Around a thousand delegates representing

governments and non-government bodies attended the

conference in order to discuss the progress of the execution of

the treaty and the practical ways to follow it. The conference

was further sponsored by Dubai Municipality, displaying the

importance of the meeting. His Excellency Dawood Al Hajiri,

Director General of Dubai Municipality, the main sponsor of the

conference, said: “Developing a happy and sustainable city is

Dubai Municipality’s vision, and part of that mandate includes

ensuring our environment and its inhabitants are protected. Our

wetland ecosystems are some of the most diverse and unique

in the world, despite our country being situated in an arid

region. We are proud to host this significant event and to be

instrumental in driving change in the conservation of wetlands.

The journey of U.A.E. with the Ramsar Convention on wetlands

started when the first Ramsar wetland was decalred in United

Arab Emirates in 2007. Since then, nine other wetlands have

been declared to be present in U.A.E., making U.A.E. home to

a total of ten declared RAMSAR Convention wetlands. These

wetlands add up to total area of 391.66 square kilometers.

These wetlands are located in different emirates and have

different classifications. The distribution of wetlands among

the five emirates are: two in Abu Dhabi, three in Dubai, three

in Sharjah, one in Ajman, and one in Fujairah. These wetlands

include marine and coastal areas, wadis, sabkhas, shallow

seagrass and coral reefs, salt marshes, mangroves and mudflats,

along with artificial lakes and ponds. The wetlands explained

below are categorized first according to the emirate they are

found in, and then on the basis of the year of their declaration

in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

Figure 4.4: 13th annual Ramsar Convention on wetlands conference held in

Dubai

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Inland wetlands

Marine/Coastal wetlands

Mountainous wetlands

Figure 4.5: Table showing distribution of wetlands in U.A.E. according to

the emirates

Figure 4.6: Location and distribution of wetlands in U.A.E. in the seven

62



64


Figure 4.7: Timeline of incorportaion of Ramsar wetlands in U.A.E.

65


Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

The first wetland to be designated as a Ramsar site in the

emirate of Abu Dhabi is the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. It

was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International

Importance in 2013. It is located 40km away from Abu Dhabi

City, the capital of the nation and has an area of 500 hectares.

In the north the reserve shares borders with a dune system

that blurs into a sabkha (low lying saline flats), in the south

it is surrounded by the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain truck road and on the

east exists labor housing communities. It is a combination

of human-made and inland wetlands built within an arid

environment and sustains 37 species of plants, 250 species of

birds 301 species of invertebrates, 11 mammals and 14 reptiles

species. Currently, this fenced area is not used for any socioeconomic

activities (RAMSAR Convention, Al Wathba Wetland

Reserve - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.8: Al Wathba Wetland Reserve flocked by flamingoes

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Bul Syayeef

The second wetland under the jurisdiction of the emirate of

Abu Dhabi is the marine and coastal wetlands of Bul Syayeef in

the year 2016. It includes eight different wetland ecosystems

such as the mangroves, sea grass beds, salt marshes, shallow

waters and intertidal mudlands. It lies 20km away from the

Abu Dhabi City and is surrounded by the industrial town of

Musaffah to the south, islands to the west and north, and Maqta

bridge in the east. It has a total protected area of 14504.5ha.

It sustains over 80 species of birds, and various species

of reptiles, plants, marine species along with endangered

species such as marine turtles. Currently, the site is used by

local communities for fishing (RAMSAR Convention, “Bul

Syayeef - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates”).

Figure 4.9: Bul Syayeef Wetland offers water sports opportunites

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Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the northern

regions of the emirate of Dubai, at the end of the Dubai Creek.

It is embedded within the heart of the urban fabric of the city

of Dubai. It was designated as a Ramsar wetland in 2007 with

a total area of 620 hectares. It is classified as a marine/coastal

and partial man-made wetland under the Ramsar classification

system. In addition, it is composed of sabkhas, intertidal mud

and sand flats, mangrove swamps and an artificial lagoon. The

wetland is home to more than 450 species of fauna and 47

species of flora. During the winter season, it sustains 67 species

of waterbirds and acts as a transit destination for migratory

birds of the East African -West Flyway. Its location at the end

of the 14km long Dubai Creek, adds the commercial and social

value of the creek to the sanctuary (RAMSAR Convention, Ras

Al Khor - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.10: Ras AlKhor Wildlife Sanctuary flocked with pink flamingoes

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Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary

The second wetland in Dubai designated as a Ramsar site in

2018 is the Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary. It is a part of the Jabal

Ali Marine Sanctuary, a WWF Global 200 Ecoregion location. It is

classified as a natural marine and coastal wetland by the Ramsar

Concention. It ‘s habitat includes areas of seagrass, mangroves,

shallow lagoons, coral reefs, oyster beds and sandy shorelines.

It has a total area of 2000ha and is home to 539 species of flora

and fauna including 34 species of corals, some of which are

endangered species. The wetland provides all four categories

of ecosystem services – provisional, regulating, cultural and

supporting services. It is currently being used by researchers to

study and preserve the site (RAMSAR Convention, Jabal Ali Wetland

Sanctuary - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.11: Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary conservation programme

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Hatta Mountain Reserve

The third wetland in Dubai to be included as a Ramsar wetland is

the Hatta Mountain Reserve in 2019. With a total area of 2100ha,

it is located in the Hajar Mountain ranges on the eastern side of

U.A.E. It is surrounded by 2 dams – Hatta Dam and Al Ghabra Dam,

as well as the Hatta Archeological site. It is classified as a natural

high-altitude freshwater ecosystem and includes human-made

water resevoirs. It supports 132 species of plants, 23 species of

mammals, and 127 species of birds, many of which are threatened

species. It is also home to 2 species of amphibians, 3 species

of native freshwater fish, and four-fifths of the dragonfly

species found in U.A.E. (RAMSAR Convention, “Hatta Mountain

Reserve - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates”).

Figure 4.12: Hatta Mountain Reserve - Hatta Dam Reservoir

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Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba

Sharjah is home to three Ramsar wetlands. Firstly, Mangrove and

Alhafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba which was designated in

2013. It’s 1494 hectares consists of various wetland ecosystems

such as coastal subtidal, intertidal mangroves, supratidal sands,

salt marshes, saline flats, sand beaches and mud channels.

It ranks as the one of the best wetland ecosystems in the

country due to it’s biodiversity, naturalness, fragility, rarity and

potential value. It is the only mangrove destination in Sharjah.

It is located a few meters away from archeological sites and

heritage areas adding a socio-cultural value to the region

(RAMSAR Convention, “Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area in

Khor Kalba - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates”).

Figure 4.13: Mangroves in Khor Kalba Wetlands

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Sir Bu Nair Island

Secondly, the Sir Bu Nair Island, under the jurisdiction of the

emirate of Sharjah, was added to the list of Ramsar wetlands

in 2013. It is spread over 4964ha, out of which 1333ha are

terrestrial and 3631ha are marine. It is classified as a marine/

coastal wetland. It is located in the south of the gulf, 110km

away from Sharjah. It is home to 40 species of coral reefs, 76

species of fish and other marine life including turtles. Four

species of these 76 species are not found in the emirate of

Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The island has a significant heritage

and historical value as it used to be a fishermen’s meeting

point. Artifacts dating back to the Iron age was found here by

historians (RAMSAR Convention, Sir Bu Nair Island Protected

Area - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.14: Rocky shores of Sir Bu Nair Island

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Wasit Nature Reserve

The third wetland belonging to the emirate of Sharjah is the

Wasit Nature Reserve. It is located around 15km from Sharjah

city with total area of 86ha. Previously a tidal lagoon, the reserve

is now a lake and wetland habitats. It includes inland wetlands

and human-made wetlands. It sustains 20 species of plants, 144

species of birds, 76 species of migratory birds an some reptiles

and animal species. In November 2015, a visitor center design

by X-architects was constructed in the reserve aimed at raising

awareness and providing tourism opportunities to the visitors.

The design of the center merges with its neighboring topography

to reduce the visual impact on the natural environment. It became

a Ramsar wetland site in 2019. (RAMSAR Convention, Wasit Nature

Reserve - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.15: Wasit Nature Reserve is home to different bird species

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Al Zora Protected Area

Ajman became home to one Ramsar Wetland named Al Zora

Protected Area in 2016. It is located at the terminal of the

1km long Ajman Creek. It is classified as a marine and coastal

wetland as well as inland wetlands. With an area of 195

hectares, it includes a variety of wetland habitats like sabkha,

sandy beaches, intertidal mudflats, creeks, lagoons and

mangrove forests. 51% of the 195 hectares of the protected

reserve is mangrove forests. It supports 87 species of birds

including migratory and endangered birds and marine life. An

estimate of hundreds of people benefit from the area due to the

human-centric services the mangroves and the other wetland

habitats provide. To raise awareness, several educational

programs like lectures and plating of mangroves are conducted

in the protected area (RAMSAR Convention, Al-Zora Protected

Area - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Figure 4.16: Pink flamingoes in Al Zora Protected Area

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Wadi Wurayah National Park

Wadi Wurayah National Park is the only Ramsar wetland in the

emirate of Fujairah. It was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands

of International Importance in 2010. It is situated 23km northwest

of Fujairah town with an area of 12,700ha. This area is divided

into two areas – 900 ha for ecotourism zone and 11,800ha for the

core zone. It is categorized as inland and human-made types of

wetlands. All nine distinct perennial freshwater ecosystems are

present in the national park. It shelters 300 species of plants, 73

species of birds, 74 invertebrate families, and various mammal

and fish. Currently, the national park is used for agricultural

and wild honey gathering activities. Visitors often visit the site,

however no facility for the tourist is constructed on site except

a road and an unpaved parking lot. It is home to 29 heritage and

ancient archeological sites (RAMSAR Convention, “Wadi Wurayah

National Park - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates”)

Figure 4.17: Fresh water systems in Wadi Wurayah National Park

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5.1 Schlossberg’s Transition Theory and Interpretations of Thresholds

Conceptually, wetlands follow the condition of ‘both-and’

and the concept of thresholds. They are located between

either terrestrial systems and deep-water aquatic systems

or terrestrial and terrestrial systems. The wetlands are the

separating and connecting factor between these constant

ecosystems. These regions are acquainted with the concept of

continuous transformations due to the constant fluctuation

of the water level in these sites. These fluctuations lead to

the blurring of boundaries of one system from the other. For

example, high tides and rise in sea levels will change the coastal

outline of marine and coastal wetlands for that particular

time. Furthermore, there exists a change in the inhabitants

of the ecosystems as wetlands are the natural habitats of

various species of birds. Thus, wetlands act as thresholds

or transitional spaces between the origins and destination

of these migratory animals. In order to fully understand

the conceptual meaning of wetlands, it is necessary to

understand the meaning of thresholds and transitional spaces.

Thresholds have several meanings on the basis of the perceptive

in which the term is being defined. It has physical, emotional,

social, psychological, and environmental meanings. The physical

meaning of threshold is that it is a segregating and connecting

space located between two different constant spaces. In the

book, Form and Fabric in Architecture, the author Catherine

Dee interprets thresholds as spatial elements that links other

elements, spaces, mediums or objects through subtle or complex

transitions (Dee). Psychological interpretation of thresholds is

that it is the result of the idea of transition or transformation,

similar to a portal that exposes a new transformed way of

thinking, understanding, interpreting and judging. Socially, it

can be interpreted as a spatial element that divides different

social functions into zones according to privacy levels – public,

semi-public, and private. Environmentally thresholds can be

defined as the connection between old and new spaces, outdoor

and indoor spaces, nature and synthetic spaces (Alakavuk 2-4).

The concept of thresholds should not be confused between the idea

of a boundary. Thresholds are spatial components that generate

opening within boundaries to allow transitions and movement

through the boundaries (Boettger 15-51). Doors, loggias,

courtyards, porches, terraces, patios, stairways are architectural

examples of openings in boundaries called thresholds.

Thresholds are gaining a new meaning as the previously defined

boundaries are now blurring. The spatial experience at a threshold

is an ambiguous experience of the in-between, providing

varying perspectives of the defined separated or connected

spaces (Atmodiwirjo and Yatmo 107-109). The threshold,

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which is an in-between space possesses the qualities of both

spaces that it connects, effectively blurring the understanding

of the space as a transformative spatial component. This

phenomenon of spaces that have multiple interpretations and

qualities, of being one thing as well as another simultaneously,

is termed as the ‘both-and’ condition by Robert Venturi in his

writing, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (Venturi 16).

Nancy Schlossberg, a counseling psychologist, defines

transition as any event, or non-event that results in

changed relationships, routines, assumptions and

roles. It is a subjective phenomenon perceived and

experienced by different individuals in different manners.

In order to objectively understand the meaning of transitions

for an individual, the type, context and impact of the transition

needs to be examined. There are two types of transitions:

events and non-events. Events include anticipated and

unanticipated transitions, while non-events include transitions

that were expected but failed to occur. Context Is concerned

with the relationship of the transition and the setting in which

your transition occurs. An impact of a transition is measured

by the modification this transition brings in one’s life.

cope with transitions. She calls them the 4’S: situation, self,

support, and strategies. Situation refers to the reason, timing,

duration, and analysis of the transition. The self-factors are

subdivided into two categories: personal and demographic

features such as gender, age, ethnicity, and stage of life; as

well as psychological features characteristics that include one’s

beliefs, commitments, values, and perspectives. Social support

factors relate to the intimate relationships of an individual

with family, friends and communities. Strategies also known

as coping mechanisms refer to the responses that alter the

situation, control the root of the problem, or that help in stress

management after the transition has occurred (Evans, Forney).

In a nutshell, Schlossberg defines transitions as a phenomenon,

that is experienced differently by distinct individuals or by

a group of people with similar backgrounds. This theory of

transitions can be applied to spaces as well, giving rise to spaces

possessing a transitional quality. These spaces can be defined

as places that are outcomes of or result in the changes that

can be explored by living beings. Longman Dictionary defines

such a space as a threshold, “the level at which something

starts to happen or have an effect” and “the beginning of

a new and important event or development.” (Alakavuk 1).

Another aspect of studying transitions in one’s life is to study

the reaction of that individual to the changes brought about

by these transitions. Schlossberg has identified four critical

characteristics that influences the capability of a person to

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Figure 5.1: Flow chart representing Schlossberg’s transition theory

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Figure 5.2: Ecology of wetland between terrestrial and aquatic systems

Figure 5.3: Venn theory respresenting wetlands as transitional space

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Figure 5.4: Ecology of wetland between terrestrial and terrestrial systems

Figure 5.5: Venn theory respresenting wetlands as transitional space

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5.2 Application of Transition Phase in the Rites of Passage on Architecture

Following Schlossberg’s theory of transitions in an

individual that can also be applied to architectural spaces

such as thresholds; the theory of rites of passages

which includes the phase of transition mentioned by

Schlossberg has been applied to architecture in the past.

Arnold van Gennep, an ethnographer, describes rites of passage

as events that mark important milestones in an individual’s life.

The transformation from one phase to another incompatible

phase is so profound that one must pass through the third

transitional, intermediatory stage. Each rite of passage has three

stages: separation, transition and incorporation (van Gennep 1).

In cultural settings, a transitional entity is a living being,

while in architectural settings it is a spatial component. The

application of the aforementioned theory on architectural

spaces will prove that an occupant of a threshold experiences

transitional and transformation. Sacred architectural

structures are chosen to prove this theory as a key example

of the rites of passage is the transformation of an individual

from the profane world to a sacred world (Turner 94).

Furthermore, like wetlands, which are transitional protected

areas; sacred architectural sites are protected spaces with

social and cultural importance and are visited by a large

number of pilgrims and tourists (Verschuuren et al. 1-2).

The implementation of the three phases of the rites of passage

can be seen in the plan and section of the Athenian Acropolis,

a sacred temple in Greece. The entry to the Acropolis via the

Propylaea acts as a transitional space or threshold between the

city of Athens and the sacred temple zone. There exists a space

between the area after the visitor leaves the city (profane area)

behind, and before the visitor reaches the temple (sacred area).

This area is described as the intermediatory phase in the rites

of passage called transition. This area is further emphasized

and distinguished by the addition of two volumes on either

side of the original volume of the threshold. In addition, the

change in height because of the elevation of the temple using

stairs and different ceiling heights emphasizes the philosophy

of transformation from a profane zone of separation to a

sacred zone of incorporation through a transitional area.

A similar application can be seen in the Pantheon, a religious

architectural site in Rome, Italy. The portico of the temple acts

as a transformative and transitional space or threshold between

the Piazza della Rotonda (profane zone) and the temple (sacred

Figure 5.6: Propylaea, entrance to the Greek temple of Acropolis

92


93


Separation

Transition

Incorporation

Figure 5.7 (Top): Propylaea - Plan and Section Diagram of 3 Phases

Figure 5.8 (Bottom): Pantheon - Plan and Section Diagram of 3 Phases

Figure 5.9: Pantheon in Rome seen from Piazza della Rotonda

94



zone). The set of stairs from the profane zone to the sacred zone

as seen in the section highlights the act of the visitor leaving the

profane zone (separation stage) but not yet entering the sacred

zone (incorporation stage). The change in the geometry and

ceiling heights of the structure further emphasizes the application

of transition stage in the rites of passage on architectural

transitional spaces called thresholds (Zimmerman 6-11).

Victor Turner after studying van Gennep’s rites of passage,

interprets transition phase and thresholds as a collision of the

two contrasting states. This colliding integration gives rise to

the law of dissociation, breaking down architectural components

that was once associated with more than one thing but later,

becomes disassociated with both things due to it’s rearrangement

in a new configuration with a new meaning (Turner 105). The

process of blurring in an architectural design process is similar

to the law of dissociation. The process of blurring involves the

overlapping of clear diagrams to create a new combination of

diagram, that has a new blurred meaning as compared to the

individual interpretation of the clear diagrams (Eisenman 27).

order was used in Asia Minor. The Doric order represent the

separation from the land and hence, is used on the exterior of

the structure to heighten the separation between the profane

and sacred spaces. On the other hand, Ionic orders depict the

connection to the landscape and are used in the interior to

accentuate the importance of the scared space (Zimmerman 15-19).

Turner states that the three stages of the rites of passages “are

found in all societies but tend to reach their maximal expression in

small-scale, relatively stable and cyclical societies” (Turner 93).

This application of the blurring process can be noticed in the

Propylaea. To reinstate the existence of the Propylaea as an

ambiguous threshold between the profane and sacred areas,

the architect, Mnesicles, blurred the utilization of the Doric

and Ionic orders. Before the construction of the Propylaea, the

two orders were never used in the same structure. The Doric

order was widely used in mainland Greece, while the Ionic

Figure 5.10 (Top Left): Plan showing Doric and Ionic Column Location in the

entranceto Acroplis

Figure 5.11 (Right and Bottom Right): Propylaea - Diagram showing Blurring

Technique in Location of Doric and Ionic Column

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Doric Columns

Ionic Columns

97





6.1 Three Stages to Rehabilitate Nature

There are three phases to successfully rehabilitation wetlands.

It is essential that each phase is clearly defined and successfully

executed for the correct restoration and rehabilitation of the

ecological systems. These three steps include restoring the

landscape, reintegrating wildlife into the restored landscapes

and rehabilitation of human lifestyle within the diverse natural

environment. The outcome of the three stages is two-fold. Firstly,

they can help re-establish the importance of natural environment

as well as help maintain the balance in these ecosystems by

redefining the relationship between nature, wildlife, and humans.

restoring natural landscapes, reintegrating wildlife and rehabilitating

human lifestyle can be implemented in natural landscapes.

The first step in order to effectly rehabilitate a natural

landscape is restoring the damaged and degraded landscapes

due to human intervention and other natural factors. The

second step is to fully reintegrate with vegetation and wildlife

within the the natural landscape and ecological system that

has been previously restored correctly. The final step for

rehabilitating a natural landscape is the most crucial step is

rehabilitating human beings and their lifestyles within the

ecological system, without harming the ecological processes.

People adopting a sustainable lifestyle via design and

architecture can help maintain the ecological balance between

them, the natural landscapes and the plants that grow there.

The following case studies will investigate how the three steps -

Figure 6.1: Three stages to rehabiltate degraded land

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6.2 Restoration of Degraded Natural Landscapes

Project : Quarry Garden in Shanghai Botanical Garden

Architects: Thupdi and Tsinghua University

Location : Shanghai / China

Client : Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden

Design : 2010

Construction : 2013

Plot size : 42,600m²

Project Brief

The initial step for rehabilitating a natural landscape is

restoring the damaged and degraded landscapes due to human

intervention and other natural factors. One such successful

method in restoration of different kinds of natural environments

and landscapes in a previously degraded environment is through

the redesigning and repurposing of such landscapes. The

Quarry Garden in Shanghai Botanical Garden is an exemplary

case study of restoring landscapes via design and architecture

in order to later help restore the balance in the ecosystem.

Quarry Garden was renovated from an abandoned quarry

yard. It is now a landmark and widely visited touristic spot in

Shanghai. The project fully followed ecological restoration

and reconstruction strategies. The visitors can enjoy the

natural landscape of the tourist resort and experience the

culture of quarrying industry that was built on a dangerous

inaccessible abandoned land. The garden is divided into

three parts – the Lake Area, Platform Area and Deep Pool.

Figure 6.2: Deep Pool and Platform area of the Quarry Garden

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Architects

The architects won the American Society of Landscape

Architecture Honor Award in 2012 for transforming an

abandoned rock quarry into a garden oasis including a

floating water walkway. The architects and landscape

designers faced many hurdles in the restoration process.

They solved these by reestablishing a proper connection

between quarry and people using landscape architecture.

Figure 6.3: Trails along the Deep Pool area of the park

104



Context

The garden is located at the center of Shanghai Chen Mountain

Botanical Garden. The quarry garden is isolated 70 meters

high in the Chen mountain. The two East-West quarries were

greatly destroyed due to quarrying. The site was closed to the

public for more than a decade, after which the team spent six

years cleaning, planting and restructuring the space. The final

design of the garden is an ecofriendly multi-layered park that

reinforces it’s quarry origins. The garden is divided into three

parts by the architects after their site analysis: the Lake Area,

the Platform/Terrace Area and the Deep Pool. The Lake Area

was reconstructed in the west side of the garden and is the first

destination the visitors explore upon entering the park from

the main entry. The Platform Area is situated between terrace

areas and hills, with six exits and entrances surrounding the

underground facilities. The Deep Pool is the core zone of the

project due to it’s location between the east and west quarries.

Figure 6.4 (Top): Damaged quarry site before restoration

Figure 6.5 (Bottom Left): Location of Chen Mountain

Figure 6.6 (Bottom Right): Topography of Quarry Mountain on Chen Mountain

106



Concept

The project aims to renovate the degraded quarry into a

delicate, culturally relevant horticulture garden on the west

quarry. Furthermore, the project reestablishes the historically

famous tourist spot with the name of ‘Chen Mountain Eight

Sights’. It restores five out of these eight sights keeping in mind

the site and traditional context. The ‘Mirror lake’ and ‘Flower

seeing platform’ in the Lake Area helps reduce the verticality of

the hill and provides an area for flower planting and displaying

respectively. The ‘Secret Garden’ in the Platform Area is home to

diverse plants and a water tower that is designed on the existing

tunnels. The Deep Pool creates a dramatic route between the eastwest

quarry for the visitors to enjoy the quarrying landscape.

Figure 6.7: Rusty steel winding trails in the Deep Pool area

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Key Element: Substruction Strategies

The quarrying industry that existed previously on the site,

stripped the site of its rich vegetation and surface layers due

to erosion. The project involved increasing vegetation cover

to undo the damages from quarrying like water and soil loss

as well as habitat fragmentations. The architects used the

strategy of “substruction” to reshape the land forms and regrow

vegetation. Substruction means raising the existing ground

level by adding a preliminary structure. In this project, the

architects use natural vegetation and natural rock formation

as the substructural elements for the successful restoration

of the ecology of the quarry. The designing team further used

this strategy of substruction on the exposed hills and rock walls

instead of using the regular wrapping method. This strategy

allows the mountains to self-restore itself under natural

conditions like rain and sunshine with no intervention by humans

Figure 6.8: Visitors can enjoy the rock walls intentionally left exposed by the

architects

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Design Strategy

The architects adopted different design strategies in the three

parts of the garden to renew and restore the quarry landscape.

The Lake Area was reconstructed by the digging and landfilling

on an even rock surface to create the ‘Mirror Lake’ and the

‘Flower seeing Platform’. The landscape architect utilized the

free stone wall and rusty steel plate of the Platform Area to

reshape façade sequence with rhythmic changes. Additionally,

a variety of trails and mountain climbing routes are designed

to reach the ‘secret garden’ of diverse plants. The architects

decided to create a sightseeing trail in the Deep Pool area

along with “the strip of sky” provide the visitors can enjoy

the dramatic angles and views of the quarry. This further

reinstates the understanding of the tourists about the origins

and culture of the quarrying landscape and mining industry.

Figure 6.9: Design strategies for the three zones of the Quarry Garden

112



Materiality and Structure

The “the strip of sky” in the Deep Pool area is made of

pourable steel barrel, and freely-cambered steel trestle. The

Deep Pool area is also home to a wooden floating bridge. The

rusty steel fence and walls in the ‘Flower seeing platform’ in

the Platform area is reflected in the ‘Mirror Pool’. The metallic

finish of these dividing elements have a dynamic warm

afterglow during the day due to the movement of the sun.

Figure 6.10: Wooden floating bridge in Deep Pool area

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Access

The access to the park starts from the Lake area with winding

paths leading to the Deep Pool Area and the Platform Area. The

platform area has six hidden entrances. They are camouflaged

by stone walls, rusty steel shutters, and rusty steel walls. Some

of these shutters are openable.

Figure 6.11: One of the six entances to the Platform area


117


Circulation

The tourists enter the garden from the West side main entry

through the Lake Area. They go on to explore the Platform Area of

the garden through a series of winding trails. This part has six exits

and entrances that are connected by three layers of set-back floors

grown with bushes and with retaining walls. The floating bridge

in the Deep Pool area trails around almost half the deep pool area.

Figure 6.12: Steel tube in the Deep Pool area

118



Main Entrance through the Lake Area

Six Entrances to the Platform Area

Figure 6.13: Accesses to the Different Areas of the Garden

120


Circulation Trails in the Park

Figure 6.14: Circulation Trails in the Garden

121


Program

The quarry garden comprises of various programs across the

three divided zones. These programs include the Winding Path,

Steep Ladder, Water Tower, Secret garden, Cistern, Mountain

Waterfall, Steel Tube, Floating Bridge, Metasequoia Forests,

Strip of Sky, Underground tunnels and various trails and routes.

Figure 6.15: Tourists enjoy the floating bridge while examining the quarried

mountains



KEY NO. FEATURES/PROGRAM ZONE

1 FLOWER BORDER B

2 WINDING PATHS C

3 STEEP LADDER C

4 RUSTY STEEL SHUTTERS C

5 RUSTY STEEL WALL C

6 WATER TOWER C

7 SECRET GARDEN C

8 CISTERN C

9 MOUNTAIN WATERFALL A

10 CASCADE A

11 TRESTLE PATH ALONG CLIFF A

12 ENTRY OF STEEL TUBE A

13 FLOATING BRIDGE A

14 FLOWER-SEEING PLATFORM B

15 REMAINING METASEQUOIA FORESTS B

16 THIN STRIP OF SKY A

17 UNDERGROUND TUNNEL A

Figure 6.16: Landmarks in different zones of the garden - A. Deep Pool Area;

B. Lake Area and C. Platform Area

124



Water Tower

Cistern

Flora/Fauna Sanctuary

Observation Deck

Bridges

Gardens

Trails

Figure 6.17: Spatial rogram of the gardens

126



6.3 Reintegration of Wildlife in Restored Landscapes

Project : Wasit Natural Reserve Visitor Center

Architects: X-Architects, Dubai, U.A.E.

Location : Sharjah / U.A.E.

Client : Environment and Protected Areas Authority, Sharjah,

United Arab Emirates

Design : 2012

Construction : 2016

Plot size : 200,000m²

Gross Floor Area : 2,534m²

Project Brief

The intermediatory step to fully rehabilitate a natural landscape

is integrating vegetation and wildlife back within the ecological

system that has been previously restored correctly. One such

successful method in integrating wildlife in a previously degraded

natural environment is through the smart designing of such

landscapes. The Wasit Natural Reserve Visitor Center, Sharjah,

United Arab Emirates is an exemplary case study of replanting

and rehabilitating wildlife in restored landscapes via design and

architecture in order to restore the balance in the ecosystem.

The Visitor Center is a part of the larger vision of Sharjah’s

Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) to clean,

restore and rehabilitate the prestigious historic wetlands in

the emirate. The building, through its design and programs

aims to increase awareness and education among it’s visitors

about the unique environment and ecosystem of wetlands

as well as maintain and support it’s conservation. They also

provide information on the birds that visit or inhabit the space.

Figure 6.18: Aerial view of the visitor center

128



Architects

The architects were inspired from the site’s natural landscape

and topography while designing the center. They used it to their

advantage by submerging the building into the ground in order

to minimize the visual impact of a synthetic structure within

a natural landscape. Moreover, they tried to incorporate how

nature and architecture can work in harmony and support the

sustenance of each other. The architects were the recipients

of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2019 for their

environmentally inclined design for this wetland visitor center.

Figure 6.19: Accessible roofs of the visitor center

130



Context

Before the architects could construct on the wetland site,

they needed to clean 40,000 square meters of garbage from

the waste-water and rubbish dump. Additionally, 35,000

native trees were planted to heal the land along the Persian

Gulf coast from the toxic chemicals. This also helped to

preserve the unique salt flats and coastal sand dunes in the

area. After the restoring process that started in 2005, the

rehabilitation process of bringing non-migratory birds to the

site began. Now, it is home to 350 species of birds, a landing

spot for 33,000 migratory birds. The six dedicated bird areas

are scattered around a lake in the middle of the site, which

follows a unified aesthetic, but cater to their individual needs.

Figure 6.20 (Top): Waste and water dump conditions of the damaged site

before intervention

132


Shallow Ponds

Vegetation

Soil

Underground Visitor Center

Visior Center

Figure 6.21 (Bottom): Present Site landscape composition


Concept

The concept of the design is two-fold. First, to camouflage the

building within the site so as to avoid creating a huge visual

impact and disturbance for the birds. Secondly, to incorporate

correct programs in order to raise awareness and protection of

the wetland ecosystems. The facility achieves this by being a

submerged structure in the ground and providing a program brief

that includes viewing spaces, exhibition spaces, restaurants,

cafes and service areas. Thus, protecting the natural ecosystem,

educating people on wetlands and their environments

and providing a haven for bird watchers and researchers.

134


Services

Catering

Gallery

Figure 6.22 (Top Left): Segregation of six bird averies

Figure 6.23 (Top Right): Fabric shading over bird averies

Figure 6.24 (Bottom): Three functions of buildings and their blocks


Key Element: Partially Camouflaged Structure

The architecture of the facility conceals with itself in the

existing surrounding topography. On arrival, visitors follow a

sloped pathway that leads them to the angled intersection of

two linear blocks. On the sides, the first linear block holds the

service and administrative spaces and straight down the second

linear element leads visitors into the linear underground gallery.

The fully transparent glass façade allows the visitors to visually

immerse themselves in the natural environment of the birds.

At the end of the second elongated linear element, lies the

perpendicular third linear element housing catering spaces and

panoramic views of the open wetlands. Furthermore, rainwater is

harvested from the roofs that is directed to specific areas of the

landscape by spouts that are camouflaged by landscape elements.

Figure 6.25: Aerial view of the partially camouflaged structure

136



Design Strategy

The design strategy adopted was ‘form follows function’. The

architects dedicated a linear rectangular space according to the

area required for the three categorized functions – viewing/

exhibition spaces, service areas and food and beverage areas.

The service block was tilted so that one block would face the Ibis

birds in the North The block for the gallery and viewing space was

elongated from the entrance along the six dedicated spaces for

bird to maximize viewing of the birds. Finally, at the elongated

end of the viewing block, a smaller block was placed orthogonally

to provide panoramic views of the site in the catering spaces.

Figure 6.26: Visitors viewing the birds in the averies

Figure 6.27: Design strategy

138



Materiality and Structure

In order to achieve a seamless space with glass facades on

both sides for the viewing/gallery space block, the architects

forfeited the use of regular columns by using a cantilevered

steel truss roof. This glazed façade is slightly tilted to enhance

reflections of the landscape for the people within, while

minimizing the reflections of people for the birds outside. The

interior is minimally designed with only information about the

birds on the supporting central wall. Continuous concrete sill

along with seating are incorporated in the design as the floor

level is lower than the ground level. Passive design elements

in response to the hot climate include well insulated roofs and

overhangs over the tilted glazed façades providing shading.

Fabric shading is also provided over the bird aviaries. The

six bird aviaries employ recycled wood and plastic in their

construction reinstating the ecological message of the design.

Figure 6.28: Continuous conrete sills with benches for visitors to view the

birds from the gallery

Figure 6.29: Detail section showing the key material and structure

140



Access

The primary access to the visitor center is through the ramp

from the parking that takes the visitor to a partial underground

gallery and admin space. The visitors can access the other

programs through the linear corridors from the ramped slope.

Figure 6.30: Ramp leading to the camouflaged entrance of the building

142



Circulation

The circulation of the facility follows the linearity of the exterior

linear blocks. The entrance and exit from the facility are through

the same gate that leads to a ramp. At the landing of the ramp,

facility workers and managers can turn right or left to access

service areas; while visitors can go straight to the gallery and

viewing areas and then to the catering areas for panoramic views.

Figure 6.31: Linear elongated corridor in the gallery block

144



Primary Entrance/Exit

Figure 6.32: Access Points Diagram

146


Horizontal Circulation

Vertical Circulation

Figure 6.33: Circulation Diagram


Program

The visitor center is fundamentally divided into three

internal programs. Viewing and gallery spaces occupying

the most area, followed by service areas and restaurants/

cafes. Applying the principal of form follows function,

the facility is the composition of three linear blocks that

represent each function individually. The exterior is divided

into six specific bird aviaries covered by fabrics for shading.

Figure 6.34: Outdoor bird averies shaded by fabrics to provide relief from

harsh weather

148



150


Educational Spaces

Administartive Spaces

BOH Spaces

Washrooms

Flora/Fauna Sanctuary

Gallery

Reception

Restaurant/cafe

Figure 6.35: Spatial program distribution of visitor center

151


6.4 Rehabilitation of Human Lifestyle in Nature

Project : Exhibition and Research Centerin Hangzhou Xixi Wetland

Park

Architect : RhineScheme GmbH and SunLay Design

Location : Hangzhou / China

Client : Hangzhou Xixi National Wetland Park Phase III Co., Ltd.

Design : 2008-2011

Construction : 2011-2013

Plot size : 10,900m² (island)

Gross Floor Area : 4,300 m²

Project Brief

The third step into rehabilitating a natural landscape in the

most crucial step – rehabilitationof human beings and their

lifestyles within the ecological system, without disturbing

it. One such successful method in integrating human beings

in a natural environment is the adoption of sustainable

practices. The Exhibition and Research Center in Hangzhou

Xixi National Wetland in Hangzhou, China is an exemplary case

study of people adapting a sustainable lifestyle via design

and architecture to maintain the ecological balance between

them, the natural landscapes and the plants that grow there.

The project is part of the third phase of the development of

Hangzhou Xixi National Wetland Park. It is a striking landmark

at the entrance of the park, that acts as a symbolic icon for the

ecological efforts and sustainable methods that are integrated

within the wetland park. These connections to the wetland are

exhibited and explained in the triangular shaped building that

is visited by a majority of guests. The design was commissioned

after it won the first prize in an international design competition.

Figure 6.36: View from the water body around the island

152



Architects

The winning entry of the design competition was a

collaboration between RhineScheme GmbH and SunLay Design.

RhineScheme GmbH excels in big scale architectural and urban

planning projects that incorporate sustainable architectural

strategies. Their aim is to integrate feasible innovations

and creative designs within their adaptable sustainable

solutions by using smart, local, low-technology concepts.

Figure 6.37: Center integrated within a lush green landscape

154



Context

It is situated on an island of 10,900m2 at the entrance of the

Hangzhou Xixi National Wetland Park in the Long Shezui Area,

China. The island is connected to other parts of the wetland

using a total of six bridges and pathways. It was constructed

on a sloped terrain for the third stage, ‘green building’ phase

of the wetland development project. The building has a

backdrop of natural mountains in the distance, bringing the

tourists visually closer to different forms of natural landscapes.

Figure 6.38: Natural wetland before development

156


Shallow Ponds

Deep Water Bodies

Vegetation

Existing Buildings

Infrastructure Paths

Visitor Center

Figure 6.39: Integration of visitor center on wetland


Concept

“The overall approach features ‘Xixi’ – wetland, ecology and

bionic environment.” (RhineScheme GmbH | Archello) The

conceptual approach of the structure is to educate visitors

and raise awareness about the ecology system of wetlands

and to exhibit the efforts of conservation of ecology in the

Xixi Wetland Park; thus, integrating human beings into a rich

biodiverse ecological system in a sustainable beneficial way.

The design of the building combined with the sustainable

solutions, aims to achieve a zero (Co2) emission and zero

energy consumption structure. This conceptual approach

of sustainable design is the recipient of ELITE Science and

Technology Award In Gold 2013 (Architectural Design) and LEED

Platinum Certification by US Green Building Council in 2014.

One method of achieving this is seen in the design of the green

roofscape that follows the outlines of the distant mountains.

Figure 6.40: Conceptual approach of the building’s roofscape follows the

sloped silhouettes of the distant mountains

158



Key Element : Sustainable Roofs

A key element of the sustainable strategies is the adaptation

of the different types of roofs of the building in a green design.

The extensive glass roof that covers the exhibition area is

inclined at an angle towards the south-west direction in order

to integrate photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof to utilize

solar energy. Another variation of the roof is the green roof,

which is inspired by silhouettes of the sloped mountains in the

distance. This roof is spacious to accommodate the tourists

to pass, rest and enjoy scenic views of the wetland park.

Figure 6.41 (Top Left): Sketch of the green roof covering the building

Figure 6.42 (Top Right): Sloped green roof leadind visitors to picturesque

views of the wetland

Figure 6.43 (Bottom Right): Photovoltaic panels on the glass roof over the

exhibition space

160



Design Strategy

The design strategy revolves around the feasibility and

sustainability of the property. Passive design methods are

employed in the spatial design by using natural light, natural

ventilation, external cladding structure and a sunshade system.

In addition, the structure uses a ground source heat pump,

thermal and photovoltaic use of renewable solar energy, light

pipe, and an integrated treatment and utilization of water

strategy. It has a green roof that is accessible and uses a

building energy intelligent management system for smart

control and simulation analysis. The adoption of these strategies

has reduced the energy consumption of the building by 80%,

gaining a three-star rating on LEED Platinum certification.

Figure 6.44: Passive design methods - green roof and different facade systems

according to the orientation

162



Materiality and Structure

The materiality of the building follows the principal of sustainable

and green design by using local, fast-growing, environmentally

friendly, and recyclable materials. One such material is timber,

and it is used in the facades of the building to provide shading.

These wooden elements connect the building to the surrounding

lush green landscape adorned with a variety of huge trees. The

density of these vertical wooden louvers varies from façade to

façade on the basis of orientation of the building. The south and

west façade have more compact and dense louvers as compared

to the north façade which is open. This is because more shading

is needed in the southern and western orientations where

the sunlight is harsh as compared to the northern façade

which receives daylight. The structure follows a grid system.

Figure 6.45 (Top): Different facade systems of the building

Figure 6.46 (Bottom Left): Clear glazed facade system in the North orientation

and clear glazed facade system with a system of wooden louvers for additional

shading in the South and West orientations

Figure 6.47 (Bottom Right): Structural grid system diagram

164


165


Access

The multiple trails and pathways in the wetland landscape

lead to the two primary and two secondary accesses to the

visitor center. The trails in the landscape are a combination of

horizontal and vertical circulation required to reach the top of

the hill. Moreover, the primary access gates are much bigger

and dominant in size as compared to secondary access gates.

Figure 6.48: Multiple levels and stairs in the ecological exhibition area

166



Vertical Circulation (Landscape)

Horizontal Circulation (Landscape)

Primary Entrances/Accesses

Secondary Entrances/Accesses

Figure 4.50: Access diagram

Figure 4.49: Landscape circulation diagram

Figure 4.51 (Right): Secondary access from South

168



Circulation

The exterior circulation to the main entrance of the building

in a combination of stairs and ramps constructed over a

sloped terrain. The ramp continues on the roof and façade

of the building as a green sloped pathway. The interior

spaces are also segregated by horizontal and vertical

circulations. The exhibition spaces on the ground floor are

divided into multiple different zones using stairs and ramps.

Figure 6.52: Multiple levels and stairs in the ecological exhibition area

170



Vertical Circulation (Interiors)

Horizontal Circulation (Interiors)

Figure 6.54: Interior Circulation diagram - first floor

Figure 6.53: Interior Circulation diagram - ground floor

Figure 6.55 (Right): Interior Circulation on first floor

172


173


Program

The main function of the building is an exhibition space and

an educational center. It includes visitor center, ecological

exhibition, ecological education classrooms, offices, meeting

and dining areas. The ecological exhibition space is divided

on the two floors and is a dedicated space for the growing

and display of plants. The educational spaces (classrooms and

offices) dedicated to ecological and environment research center

of the Zhejiang University. It provides an ideal platform for

students for outdoor education. The building also has dedicated

spaces for dining and meeting, open to tourists and students.

Figure 6.56: Educational Classroom for students of Zhejiang University

174



176


Educational Spaces

BOH Spaces

Visitor Center

Green Roof

Washrooms

Restaurant/cafe

Gallery/Exhibition space

Figure 6.57: Spatial Program distribution diagram - ground floor (left) and first

floor (right)

177


178


7.1 Why the Emirate of Dubai?

Dubai is an international hub for tourists leading to the increasing

importance of the tourism industry in the emirate. All types of

visitors, from business tourists to tourists on holiday, visit the

city as it offers a range of activities. However, Dubai is the only

emirate that lacks adequate tourism directed towards natural

habitats and ecosystems like wetlands. The other emirates,

like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Ajman, all have at least one of

their wetlands developed for tourism and recreation purposes.

Moreover, the city of Dubai is home to three Ramsar wetlands

of international importance. These wetlands are not welldeveloped

and marketed for visitors and have slowly started

degrading, endangering the unique flora and fauna found

in the city. The addition of the nature tourism in the tourism

sector of the emirate, can boost the economy while protecting

the endangered wildlife inhabitant to these ecosystems.

Developed Tourism

Undeveloped Tourism

Figure 7.1: Pie charts representing the wetlands that are developed for tourism

in each emirate

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Developed Tourism

Undeveloped Tourism

Figure 7.2: Table representing the wetlands that are developed for tourism in

each emirate

Figure 7.3: Map depicting the wetlands that are developed for tourism in each

emirate

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The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the northern

regions of the emirate of Dubai, at the end of the Dubai Creek.

It is embedded within the heart of the urban fabric of the city

of Dubai. It was designated as a Ramsar wetland in 2007 with

a total area of 620 hectares. It is classified as a marine/coastal

and partial man-made wetland under the Ramsar classification

system. In addition, it is composed of sabkhas, intertidal mud

and sand flats, mangrove swamps and an artificial lagoon. The

wetland is home to more than 450 species of fauna and 47

species of flora. During the winter season, it sustains 67 species

of waterbirds and acts as a transit destination for migratory

birds of the East African -West Flyway. Its location at the end

of the 14km long Dubai Creek, adds the commercial and social

value of the creek to the sanctuary (RAMSAR Convention, Ras

Al Khor - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates).

Wetland Sanctuary - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab

Emirates).

The third wetland in Dubai to be included as a Ramsar wetland is

the Hatta Mountain Reserve in 2019. With a total area of 2100ha,

it is located in the Hajar Mountain ranges on the eastern side

of U.A.E. It is surrounded by 2 dams – Hatta Dam and Al Ghabra

Dam, as well as the Hatta Archeological site. It is classified

as a natural high-altitude freshwater ecosystem and includes

human-made water resevoirs. It supports 132 species of plants, 23

species of mammals, and 127 species of birds, many of which are

threatened species. It is also home to 2 species of amphibians, 3

species of native freshwater fish, and four-fifths of the dragonfly

species found in U.A.E. (RAMSAR Convention, “Hatta Mountain

Reserve - Ramsar Information Sheet United Arab Emirates”).

The second wetland in Dubai designated as a Ramsar site in

2018 is the Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary. It is a part of the Jabal

Ali Marine Sanctuary, a WWF Global 200 Ecoregion location. It is

classified as a natural marine and coastal wetland by the Ramsar

Concention. It ‘s habitat includes areas of seagrass, mangroves,

shallow lagoons, coral reefs, oyster beds and sandy shorelines.

It has a total area of 2000ha and is home to 539 species of flora

and fauna including 34 species of corals, some of which are

endangered species. The wetland provides all four categories

of ecosystem services – provisional, regulating, cultural and

supporting services. It is currently being used by researchers

to study and preserve the site (RAMSAR Convention, Jabal Ali

Figure 7.4: Map depicting the three wetlands in the emirate of Dubai

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7.2 Site - Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Community Integration

Score : 5/5

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (RAKWS) is fully integrated within

the metropolitan area of the city. It is centrally surrounded by

Ras Al Khor Industrial Area 1 to the South-East, Nad Al Sheba 1

to the South, Dubai Design District in the West, and Bur Dubai

area across the Dubai Creek in the North. It’s location in the city

center is the reason it is surrounded by multiple landmarks. The

types of buildings surrounding the wetland are a mix of commercial

and residential projects. The complete integration of

the site within the central region of the city, makes it accessible

by public and private transportation.

Location of RAKWS within the Dubai city districts

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Score : 5/5

Historical, Social and Cultural Values

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the end of the fourteen-kilometer

long Dubai Creek. The creek is the heart of the

social, economic and cultural factors of the city, and displays a

traditional image of the Emirate. The Creek has been an essential

part of the urban fabric of Dubai in the past and present. It

was the regions along the Creek where the first settlements of

the city can be found, namely Bur Dubai, Deira, and Shindagah.

The Creek also provided major economic opportunities like fishing,

pearling and trading in the past. Nowadays, the ‘abras’ and

‘dhows’ can be found carrying locals and tourists across the

Arabian waters of the Creek. The ecological values of the sanctuary

add cultural values to the Creek and replenishes the side

effects of past economic activities such as fishing.

Dhow cruise routefrom Dubai Creek to Dubai Canal

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Score : 3/5

Variation in Wetland Composition

RAKWS is composed of different types of wetlands. The following

wetlands in decreasing order of area can be found in the

sanctuary – Intertidal Marshes; Intertidal Mud, Sand and Salt

Flats; Mangrove Swamps; and Artificial Lagoon. There are three

islands of the wetland - one in the shallow part, one artificial

island in the dredged part and one in the middle of the creek.

Each of these islands have a viewing deck.

Three islands of the RAKWS - (1) Artificial island (2) Middle island (3) Island

in shallow waters

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Score : 5/5

Level of Existing Tourism

Educational trips by schools and guided tours by private tourism

countries allow a specific number of visitors to enter the sanctuary

during daylight hours. The site is visited by almost 50,000

visitors from 114 countries till date. The number increased from

4,646 visitors in 2005 to 12,000 visitors in 2011. The most common

time to visit the wetland is in the month of November. The

visitors visit the three bird hide locations for birdwatching.

Three existing birdwatching viewing points of the wetland - (1) Lagoon Hide

(2) Flamingo Hide (3) Zari Jan Park

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Score : 3/5

Level of Degradation and Conservation

Out of the three islands, the dredged island is hardly of any

interest to the fauna inhabitants due to the dredging of Creek

done in the past. The wetland comes under the official jurisdiction

of the Marine Environment and Wildlife Section of the

Environment Department under Dubai Municipality. The conservation

policies of the site follow the laws of the protected

area of the Emirate. This includes no shooting, hunting, and

disturbing the wildlife of the area. Regular monitoring of the

biodiversity and water levels of the site is conducted on site.

The outer perimeter of the wetland buffer zone is fenced and

entrance to the sanctuary is limited.

Region of dredging within the wetland

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7.3 Site - Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary

Community Integration

Score : 3/5

Jabal Ali Wetland Sanctuary is a part of the Jabal Ali Marine

Sanctuary (JAMS), which extends from the Palm Jabal Ali to the

Dubai/Abu Dhabi Border in South-West of Dubai. However, the

site is not integrated within a community. It is surrounded by

the desert sands and the Dubai Waterfront to the North-East.

The closest development is the Dubai Parks and Resorts development,

which is a 15-minute drive from the sanctuary. The partial

isolation of the sanctuary makes the site difficult to access

without private transportation methods.

Location of JAMS within the Dubai city districts

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Score : 3/5

Historical, Social and Cultural Values

Due to the lack of community spaces surrounding the site, there

is very little social value attributed to the wetland. The social

value to residents is the benefits of provision of seafood from

the Arabian Sea waters. On the other hand, the site has important

archaeological and historic value leading to high cultural

values. The site has been transformed for decades and contains

fossils of marine life. The site is important to raise awareness

and education about the conservation of marine life.

Arabian Gulf to the North and North-West adds historic value to the site

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Score : 5/5

Variation in Wetland Composition

The site lies within the Ghantoot Marine Reserve. It includes

Coral reefs; Mud and silts; Seagrass beds; Caulerpa meadows;

Bare sand; and Land and coastal regions.

Wetland types in JAMS

Coral Reefs

Mixed Seagrass Assamblage

Bare Sand

Coastal Land

Mud and Silt

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Score : 0/5

Level of Existing Tourism

The site is home to two important coastal habitats – seagrass

beds and coral reefs, that are maintained throughout the years.

There is no tourism allowed on site. Sometimes, outside visitors

and environmentalists are allowed on site for conservation programs

like saving the hawksbill turtles by the Emirates Marine

Environment Group (EMEG).

Location of conservationist’s accessible EMEG building

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Score : 5/5

Level of Degradation and Conservation

The site falls under the jurisdiction of the Environment department

under Dubai Municipality. The site is of utmost importance

for conservation as there are very few remaining coastal sites in

U.A.E. that support a large range of habitats and is rich in biodiversity.

The site is in relatively pristine conditions as compared

to other coastal regions of U.A.E. However, actions of dredging

and land reclamation can be seen since 2007 to connect the

new marine waterfront island project to the beach. Bleaching

of coral reefs due to climate change is also eveident in the site.

Emirates Marine Environment Group (EMEG) along with Dubai

Municipality host conservation programs regularly to educate

the public about saving marine life.

Location of two EMEG sites on the wetland

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7.4 Site - Hatta Mountain Reserve

Community Integration

Score : 3/5

Hatta Mountain Reserve is located on the Eastern region of the

emirate of Dubai. It is remote in terms of its geographical features

as it is composed of mountains. At the North-Eastern end

of the protected area lies the city of Hatta. To the West of Hatta

town, is the old village of Masfut. Most houses are vacant

and used as secondary homes for vacations by the owners, who

have moved closer to city centers. The remoteness of the site

makes it only accessible by private vehicles and has an existing

parking space and trails for trekking and biking. There is no

access to the site from the South because the border between

U.A.E. and Oman lies in the South of the reserve borders.

Location of HMR within the U.A.E emirates

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Score : 4/5

Historical, Social and Cultural Value

HMR borders the Hatta Archeological site dating back to 2500-

2000 BC. The site has 50 burials and showcases the traditional

techniques of Umm Al Nar cemeteries. The rock carvings discovered

here are one of the most diverse petroglyphs in the

world. The site is also home to the Hatta Dam which provides

water sport activities such as kayaking and donut boat riding.

The ‘falaj system’ a traditional groundwater management and

irrigation system can be found in the Hatta City that lies in the

valley at the bottom of the protected area.

Key locations of historical features of HMR - (1) Hatta Dam (2) Al Ghabra Dam

(3) Hatta Archeological Sites (4) Hatta Heritage Village

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Score : 4/5

Variation in Wetland Composition

The site can be divided into six main habitats types – Mountain

slopes and scree; Mountain terraces, Mountain terrace walls;

Wadis; Reservoirs; and Reed beds. The mountain slopes cover

most of the area of the site. The mountain terraces are near the

two large wadis of the site, while the mountain terrace walls

are more or less vertical features of the terraces that are covered

with vegetation. The site is home to two large wadis and

numerous smaller wadis. The site also includes the two reservoirs

behind the Al Ghabra Dam in the North and Hatta Dam in

the South. Around the reservoir of the Hatta Dam we can find

reedbeds.

Two dams of HMR - (1) Hatta Dam (2) Al Ghabra Dam

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Score : 3/5

Level of Existing Tourism

In 2019, 37,000 visitors visited Hatta for the wide range of tourism

and recreational activities the site provides. These activities

range from leisure picnics to adventure trails, historic sights to

maritime activities. The visitors have 6 options around the site

for overnight stays, out of which one is within the site boundaries.

Touristic sites within and around HMR

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Score : 4/5

Level of Degradation and Conservation

The site is home to all nine types of freshwater bodies. The construction

of the two dams has led to little degradation of the

site. The site falls under the jurisdiction of the Environment

department under Dubai Municipality. The site is well managed

but the construction of roads, dams and other water management

facilities have negative high impacts on the conservation

policies of the site.

Construction of two dams degrades the freshwater quality of HMR

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7.5 Site Determination and Detailed Analysis

Figure 7.5: Table representing the value of each wetland in Dubai (highest-5

and lowest-0)

Figure 7.6: Map depicting the selected wetland

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Site Photo Survey

The wetland is fenced at the boundaries. However, it is possible

to see extensive land from the other side of the fences. The

pictures were shot in mid-November and show the wetland

populated with pink flamingoes, a key symbol for the wetland.

Figure 7.7: Site View from route E66

Figure 7.8: Site View of grey mangroves and pink flamingos

Figure 7.9: Site View of existing access

Figure 7.10: Site View left of existing access

Figure 7.11: Site View right of existing access

Figure 7.12: View from site towards Dubai Design District

Figure 7.13: View of Sheikh Zayed road beyond the mangroves

Figure 7.14: Flamingo Hide Viewing Point

Figure 7.15: View from site towards Sheikh Zayed Road

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Figure 7.16: Evolution of the site over 35 years


Site Climate - Sun Path, Precipitation and Wind Path

Mean sunshine is between 7 and 12 hours. The highest recorded

temperature is in early September from 43-50 degrees Celsius.

The rainfall is low in volume but occurs in the months of

December to March. The majority of the rainfall is usually during

January and February. Temperature of the Creek can be highly

influenced by the northerly Shamal winds. Prevailing winds

during the day are light and flow from the South to South East,

while at night they flow from West to North-West.

Sun path diagram

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229


Average Temperature (in degrees Celsius)

Average Precipitation (in mm)

(Top): Average temperature in Dubai in 2019

(Bottom): Average precipitation in Dubai in 2019

(Right): Wind path diagram

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Diversity of Fauna

The sanctuary supports various mammals, fish, invertebrates,

reptiles and 180 species of birds. These include the infamous

pink flamingoes, greater spotted eagles, horned viper, blue

headed agama, common kingfisher, black-tailed godwit and

Eurasian spoon bill.

Location of fauna on site

Pink Flamingoes

Other Birds

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Figure 7.17: Species of birds on site - Pink Flamingoes

Figure 7.18: Species of birds on site - Common Kingfisher

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Figure 7.19: Species of birds on site - Blueheaded Agama

Figure 7.20: Species of birds on site - Blacktailed Godwit

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Existing Vegetation

During 1991 and 1994, 45,000 seedlings of ‘the grey mangrove’

species were planted in the sanctuary. Nowadays, the mangroves

are established and flourishing. Other flora species that help

recycle nutrients and maintain ecological balance of the region

include Bean Caper, Strings of Bead, Salt Cedar, Desert Hyacinth,

Common Reed, Red Thumb and Calligonum Comosum.

Vegetation on site

Grey Mangroves

Site Landscape

Surrounding Vegetation (not on site)

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Figure 7.21: Species of flora on site - Salt Cedar

Figure 7.22: Species of flora on site - Calligonum Comosum

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Figure 7.23: Species of flora on site - Desert Hyacinth

Figure 7.24: Species of flora on site - Red Thumb

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Water Bathymetry

The surrounding Creek has been vastly altered. Only half the

Creek in the South West has been left unaltered. The North West

region of the Creek has been dredged for navigational purpose

to create the Dubai Canal. The South Western side of the Creek

has shallow (<7m deep) while the northwestern regions are 7m

deep, which includes the maximum tidal range of 2.1m. In the

Lagoon Area of the wetland the speed of the tidal currents is

lower than 1.5m/s.

Water Bathymetry

0-2m

2m-4m

4m-6m

7m and above

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241


Water Characteristics

The creek is usually alkaline water body with an average of pH

8.7. It has similar salinity levels like the Arabian waters in the

Arabian gulf. Water temperatures range from 33 degrees Celsius

in summer and 23 degrees Celsius in winter. Dubai Creek is rich

in algae and biomass matter due to the discharge of high level

of nutrients from the Al Awir sewage treatment plant.

Average sea temperature in Dubai in 2019

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Average Sea Temperature (in degrees Celsius)

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Soil Mineral Content

The top 12 meters under the surface of the wetlands is composed

of marine sands. After the 12 meters, carbonate sandstone

dating back to 25,000 years is found. Beneath the layer of

sandstones lies quartz sands, and conglomerates. In the above

mentioned top 12m, marine sand includes fine sand with gravel,

silt and clay. The sabkhas of RAWKS is rich in many carbonateevaporative

minerals.

Section of the soil on the site

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Site Topography

The terrestrial regions of the site are relatively flat. The

difference between the lowest point and highest point in

elevation of terrestrial region is 1.75m.

Topography contours of the site

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Site Access and Circulation

There are no metro stations or marine stations directly next to

the site, but other public transportation services like cabs and

buses from metro or marine stations along the creek can be

taken to reach the site. The site is accessible by two bus stops

present on the perimeter of the wetland. It can be accessed by

E66 and E44 road routes. The E66 road leads to a service road

that gives access to the wetlands.

Site Access and Circulation

Bus Station

Pedestrian Route

Parking Spaces

Park Ranger/Permitted Vehicles only

Highway Routes

Direction of Traffic

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Score : 5/5

Existing Structure

The visitors visit the three bird hide locations for birdwatching.

The structures are temporary structures. Each viewing location

is located on each island. Furthermore, each viewing point

provides different views of the wetland.

Three existing birdwatching viewing points - (1) Lagoon Hide (2) Flamingo

Hide (3) Zari Jan Park

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253


Site Surroundings - Mass/Void

The site’s location in the city center is the reason it is surrounded

by multiple buildings on the South side and accross the creek

water body.

Mass/Void of site surroundings

Void

Mass

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Site Surroundings - Height of Neighboring Buildings

The density and heights of the building changes according the

location. However most buildings in the immediate surrounding

of the wetland are low storey structures.

Height of surrounding buildings

0m-4m

4m-12m

12m+

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257


Site Surroundings - Neighboring Buildings

The types of buildings surrounding the wetland are a mix of

educational, industrial, commercial and residential projects.

While the densityofthecommercial and industrial buildings is

more, residential buildings can be found concentratedin the

upcoming Dubai Creek Harbor, that overlooks the wetland.

Function of surrounding buildings

Industrial

Mixed Use

Commercial

Residential

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259


Site Surroundings - Landmarks

The site’s location in the city center is the reason it is surrounded

by multiple landmarks like Dubai Design District, Ras Al Khor

Industrial Area, Al Jaddaf Walk, Swiss International Scientific

School in Dubai and Dubai Creek Harbor. The new Dubai Creek

Tower by Emaar is also being constructed on the east side of the

wetland.

Landmarks around the site (1) Emarat Abu Kadra Petrol Station (2) Al Jadaf

Walk (3) Dubai Creek Harbor (4) Ras Al Khor Industrial Area 1 (5) Dubai Design

District

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Plot Determination

The plot of approximate area 145,000sqm is selected on the

degraded artificial island of the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

for three major reasons. Firstly, the site has been degraded

previously due to the construction of the Dubai Canal. Thus, the

proposed project can help restore the landscape of the land.

Secondly, the plot offers views in the South and Southwest to

the habitats of flora and fauna found in the wetland but does

not hinder their habitats. This allows the proposed project on

the plot to be constructed and operated without interrupting

the biodiversity of the wetland. Lastly, the plot has views to the

skyline of the Sheikh Zayed road to the East. This can be an

advantage of the plot for the proposed project.

Determined plot area on site

145,000 sqm

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8.1 Spatial Program Summary and Analysis

The proposed spatial program is decided after studying examples

of how architecture can facilitate the steps to rehabilitate

wetlands and raise awareness about these ecosystems. The

study showed that there are two key factors that guarantee

the success of rehabilitating a wetland – the increase in the

awareness of the ecosystem of these wetlands and the attraction

of the site to the visitors. These two factors can be achieved by

different approaches, the most suitable one being to design an

educational and visitor center on the site.

surroundings. Furthermore, to increase tourism within the site,

gardens, walking and biking trails leading to outdoor viewing

areas to enjoy the scenic views of nature and Dubai’s skyline is

proposed.

The spatial program is designed so that the site becomes selfsustainable.

The income generated via tourism can cover the

operational costs of maintaining such wetlands, while protecting

the diverse organisms that constitute the wetland’s ecosystem.

After the plot has been landscaped and planted with native

trees that can help restore the degraded land and attract

more species of fauna, awareness about wetland ecosystems

needs to be increased. This can be achieved by integrating

educational spaces and exhibition areas in the program. The

proposed program also includes flora and fauna sanctuaries

along with their maintenance areas to protect and conserve the

biodiversity found on and around the plot. Administration and

back of house spaces are included to help maintain and operate

the space on a day-to-day basis. The close proximity of the plot

to the Dubai Creek can provide a good opportunity for maritime

tourism through activities such as kayaking. Small cafes and

coffee shops scattered around the plot are also proposed, so

that the visitors can watch the diverse species that occupy the

Figure (Next Page): Table of comaparision between case studies and proposed

spatial program

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8.1 Proposed Spatial Program

Figure 8.1: Activities in proposed spatial program

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Figure 8.2: Bubble diagram showing the relationship between the proposed

spatial program of project




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9.1 Concept Strategies from Research

The design concept ideas are drawn after careful consideration

of the research work. Wetlands are biodiverse ecosystems that

are protected areas under the Ramsar Convention society.

Conceptually, wetlands can be regarded as transitional

spaces such as thresholds. Thresholds have various different

interpretations that will be implemented as a part of the design

strategy. The case studies show that once the wetlands are

restored, reintegrated with wildlife and rehabilitated with human

lifestyle; they are ideal locations to implement ecotourism as

this green tourism opportunities would help raise awareness

about the wetlands and conserve them. Wetlands have a cyclical

and relationship between tourism, people and the environment.

destination between natural and synthetic environments by

studying the architectural concepts and processes of thresholds

as a transitional and transformative space.

U.A.E. is home to 10 such wetlands, out of which Ras Al Khor

Wildlife Sanctuary was chosen. The wetland lacks developed

tourism infrastructure. It is home to three islands, one of which

is degraded, barren and artificial. The proposed project aims to

rehabilitate this island due to the degradation done in the past.

The picturesque views and close proximity to flora and fauna

further benefit the selected location. The proposed spatial

program includes outdoor and indoor spaces decided upon by

the type of activities required by ecotourism in order to raise

awareness and help conserve the wetlands. The proposed

design concepts aim to rehabilitate wetlands as an ecotourism

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274

Figure 9.1: Research summary and synthesis for preliminary design concepts


Concept - Blurred and Blended Concept - Platforms and Pathways Concept - Angled and Fragmented

Three concepts for wetland visitor center

275


9.2 Concept - Blurred and Blended

Selected Plot

Taking into consideration the definition of wetlands in the

form of thresholds as transitional spaces between terrestrial

and aquatic systems, the plot chosen on the artificial island is

an area that lies between the Dubai Creek and the rest of the

artificial island. The plot and conceptual approach ensure the

optimum use of the surrounding views. The main idea of the

concept is to blend the building with the surroundings using

ramps. The difference in the surrounding height is taken into

account while deciding the sloped angle from the lowest and

highest point of the building in order to not disturb the wildlife.

This footprint was overlapped thrice in the process of blurring

that is often associated with transitional spaces.

276


Integration of concept within the site around the views

277


(Top) Main design concept diagram

(Right) Design process diagram

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9.3 Concept - Platforms and Pathways

Selected Plot

Another definition of wetlands in the form of thresholds are

spaces that link other spaces through transitions. Following

this meaning, the plot chosen on the artificial island is an

area that connects the artificial island to the middle island of

the sanctuary. The plot and conceptual approach ensure the

optimum use of the surrounding views. The main idea of the

concept is to connect the two islands via platforms and bridges

creating an experience of Arnold van Gennep’s three phases of

rites of passage – separation, transition and incorporation for

the visitors. The concept involves 3 typologies of platforms that

act as a bridge from the middle island to the flora and fauna

sanctuary on the artificial island. The elevation of the cylindrical

platforms allows for ease in bird flight.

280


Integration of concept within the site around the views

281


(Top) Main design concept diagram

(Right) Design process diagram

282



9.4 Concept - Angled and Fragmented

Selected Plot

Furthermore, wetlands in the form of thresholds can be defined

as spatial components that generate openings within boundaries

to allow for movement and transitions. Following this definition,

the plot chosen on the artificial island is an area that lies on

the boundary of the artificial island. The plot and conceptual

approach ensure the optimum use of the surrounding views.

The main idea of the concept is to design an angular building

on the boundary which ensures views to different aspects of

the sanctuary while creating openings in the lower level of the

structure to allow for movement in between. The creation of

openings fragments the lower level while the second level is

complete and continuous.

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Integration of concept within the site around the views

285


(Top) Main design concept diagram

(Right) Design process diagram

286



288


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Figure 7.21 - Figure 7.24. Flora Archives | Dubai Municipality. https://www.

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Figure 8.1 - Figure 8.2. Author

Figure 9.1. Author

Figure 6.41. Author

Figure 6.42 - Figure 6.45. Xixi Park Visitors’ Centre | Zero Energy Building –

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