After the tour with ALEC to the One Za’Abeel, we headed with the bus to the Witteveen+Bos excursion. We started the excursion with a meeting with three members of the Witteveen+Bos branch in Dubai. They told us about the projects they have implemented in the area so far and upcoming new projects they plan to do. Afterwards, the group moved to the Polo Residences Project, a newly designed neighbourhood. The residential building complexes are four stories high and bordered by beautiful gardens. There are designated communal spaces with leisure facilities like playgrounds, exercise centres, and food service businesses.

Witteveen+Bos  gave us a tour of the complex and the recently finished park. The person who engaged in this project from Witteveen+Bos started to explain some practical issues related to the design of the buildings. In the design process, they considered the people who will live in the apartments in the area. For example, finding suitable playground materials in the age group of the residents. However, the focus of this excursion was on the park area since it was built recently while the apartments are finished five years ago.

In the developed area, there was a two-section playground where two sport activities can be done in the same time. In addition, a big supermarket next to the park increased the value of the park as Witteveen+Bos mentioned. Moreover, there was a children yard provided with different facilities where the children can play.

We as group started to ask questions regarding many topics. For example, the differences in the projects in UAE and the Netherlands, the methods for water provision to plans without influencing the water demand of the complex and the absence of park users at time of the excursion. The Witteveen+Bos representative was happy to answer the questions. He mentioned that the main differences between two countries is that meetings with the client take more time and the spatial master plan is more flexible to change during the different phases of a projects. The plants are provided with water that has been used by the residents after a certain filtering process. Since, one tree in the park already needs approximately 100 liters of water per day and the rest of the plans around 12 liters per square meter. Finally, he explained that the park is actively used by the neighbourhood’s residents, especially in the evenings. During the day the park is quieter due to the extreme temperatures. Overall, the park is a popular place to play sports, relax and it connects with the rest of the area through a walking path.

After the interesting visit to the polo residences, we took the bus to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. This mangrove area is an important resting place for more than 200 bird species and is located along the Dubai Creek. The area is preserved for nature purposes and under the supervision of the Dubai Municipality. The Ruler himself also enjoys visiting the sanctuary regularly. Especially the many flamingos in the area catch the eye of visitors. The sanctuary is an important resting place on the flamingo migration route. The large group of birds close to the mangrove forests was a beautiful and special ambience, especially because a skyline of high-rise buildings was visible all around. This large contrast between the built environment and nature sanctuary creates a unique landscape experience.

A biologist from the municipality explained more about the biodiversity and preservation of the area. Different research experts concerning the bird, fish and mangrove population are active in the region. An interesting aspect of the current ecosystem is that the flamingos are fed two times a day by a member of staff from the ruler. This food is provided to attract and increase the natural flamingo population in the area. The biologist calls the food, a type of flamingo formula.

During the field visit we witnessed a feeding moment. It was really nice to see how the birds all gathered together around the feeding place. Questions were asked about the impact of this feeding process on the natural ecosystem. The biologists explained that this feeding has been adapted in the ecosystem and that the water quality and the fish population are not affected by it.

The team of Witteveen+Bos is currently not active in the mangrove area that we visited. However, there are ongoing project proposal plans concerning mangrove regions nearby. For these regions Witteveen+Bos is exploring the possibility of eco-tourism with walking paths and boat tours. In the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, the mangrove population is currently increasing and new mangroves are planted. The roots of the mangroves are an important breeding place for different birds and fishes. Besides, the mangroves have a positive influence on the water quality and retain a lot of CO2. At the visited location the mangroves do not have a specified flood safely function. However, when rainfall in Dubai occurs, the urban water partly drains towards the area.

Overall, the Witteveen+Bos excursion was an interesting experience. It was nice to visit two different project sites in the area. Besides, the contact with the Witteveen+Bos employers gave us a nice insight in the working environment of Dubai.