Lauded for its focus on health & sustainability, ICD Brookfield Place is a multi-functional work/retail environment in the design-conscious Dubai International Financial Centre district (DIFC). With a lofty treed Summer Garden & cool green plazas it offers a calm setting for working, learning & socialising.
Adopting a restrained aesthetic, the building offers an instantly recognisable presence which the landscape reflects & enhances; in fact, the site is defined by its strong, public spaces. The Summer Garden is accessible, flexible & a destination in its own right. The adjacent exterior plazas & vehicular drop-off with their avenues of Umbrella & red & yellow Flame trees, contribute a verdant streetscape canopy & use subtle paving texture & detail to blend with the urban context.
The brief sought to redefine the traditional workplace, creating a unique, year-round wellbeing-focused environment that outlined a shared responsibility for sustainability amongst tenants, visitors & the wider community.
Brookfield is synonymous with the use of Winter Gardens & mature trees; ICD Brookfield Place was to be no different., The defining factors of C19th European Winter Gardens revolved around wellbeing & are just as relevant today & in their counterpart Summer Gardens in hotter climes.
The Summer Garden was to:
• maintain a comfortable climate
• maximise natural light & views
• provide space for music, pleasure & strolling
Externally, the hardscape was to be simple & clean, whilst the softscape, lush & mature. Grand, immense, impactful trees from day one would contribute to a shaded streetscape with spill-out space beneath the canopies.
The overall character was to be informed by the context; public spaces & routes would dictate the site’s geometry. DIFC has routes & boulevards at different levels & a goal was to connect two levels with a diagonal route across the site, activating the space & forming a path to the ground level Summer Garden.
The design of the entire ground floor was to complement the architectural lines & would be perceived as one space which all could enjoy.
The design approach was born out of the urban context & climate; sustainability emphasis extended into the social & economic dimensions by focussing on productive, happier work environments with extensive mental health benefits.
Establishing mature trees was a particular challenge. A forward-planned procurement strategy at design stage accommodated specimen selection, acclimatisation & installation on site at mature size with full crowns.
The hardscape design simplicity is deceptive. Small design tolerances in a complex urban site required detailed planning. The paving pattern was used to set out all other landscape elements & had to align perfectly with the architecture, requiring precise calculations down to grouting allowances. All supporting disciplines were carefully coordinated. The complexity demanded bespoke paving units for which the client acquired part of a quarry.
The limit of the finished floor to structural slab build ups required creative tree installation solutions; if you can’t go down you have to try a different direction! Typically-square tree pit dimensions became shallow & wide to meet the volume needed for healthy growth – this worked as roots often spread out to more aerobic soil nearer the surface. A suspended system was devised to place paving over these large tree pits. To install a huge specimen Rain Tree, a mound was created as there was no space to go down or out. Street furniture installation was affected too: with often only 400mm depth to mount bollards in, a shallow mounting system had to be sought.
As the largest LEED Platinum rated development in EMEA, ICD Brookfield Place positively impacts its urban setting through a commitment to save energy & manage resources; in terms of the landscape, millions of gallons of water are saved by using recycled water (TSE) to irrigate the carefully chosen low-water-demand trees & plants. In addition, advanced building performance monitoring optimises climate control & irrigation demand.
Four acres of public realm promote physical activity & provide direct access to nature, whilst views of the Burj Khalifa provide a visual link to Downtown Dubai.
The 31m high Summer Garden doubles as an ‘inside/outside’ civic space activated by an arts/events programme for cultural experiences in a fresh air environment with energy recovery ventilation. Outside, the trees provide year-round shade, reducing the local temperature whilst the paving minimises heat gain & reduces glare. The builds’ carbon footprint was reduced by sourcing local materials, skills & labour, & using wood from certified sustainable forests & recycled materials.
The landscape design of ICD Brookfield Place celebrates its contemporary urban setting & creates vibrant vistas from leafy gathering spaces, whilst the Summer Garden adds drama to the City’s cultural life. The result is a triumph of sustainable high-end design.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:
Townshend Landscape Architects (Lead Landscape Architect)
Cracknell (Submitting firm) (Executive and Construction Landscape Architect)
NB: Cracknell and Townshend landscape architects worked together throughout the project; Townshend led the Concept Design and Cracknell led the Buildability/Construction Design. This submission focuses on the combined work of these two landscape design firms.
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Lead Architect: Foster + Partners
Executive Architect: BSBG Group
Others to mention:
Client: Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), Brookfield
Structural Engineer: Robert Bird Group
MEP/Project Management: AECOM
Location: 312 Al Mustaqbal St – Trade Centre – DIFC – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Design year: 2015-2019
Year Completed: 2020