Given its proven track record in large-scale projects, with the Armed Forces Officers Club, BurJuman Shopping Centre, Sharjah Botanical Museum, The Dubai Airshows since 1993 and J W Marriott Hotel under its belt, Planters was contracted for the prestigious Terminal 3 of Dubai airport.
LANDSCAPING CONCEPT The planting design has a Japanese influence, using rocks and gravel as well as oriental style trees and plants. The area was designed by landscape architect, Philip Cave. The result is two Zen Gardens at either end of the Departure Lounge, where passengers can relax and enjoy the gardens. Plants used include seven 8.5-m Araucaria araucana, two 4-m Ligustrum ovalifolium, twelve 3.5-m Cycas circinalis, two 'Bonsai' Podocarpus, and several hundred under plants. This is the only project in the Middle East where such large Araucaria have been used and a first for Ligustrum in an interior here. Also a first in the UAE, was the use of 'Bonsai' shaped Podocarpus trees. Trees and plants were hand picked in Florida and Holland. A specialist was contracted to arrange the packing and shipping to ensure the plants arrived in tip-top condition and undamaged. On arrival, experienced technicians swung into action to unpack the plants and carefully transport them into the building. This was achieved in one night, working from 5 pm until 10 am the following morning. Once inside, the Planters team spent the next week, positioning and planting these giants. The aim was to recreate the vision of the landscape architect, working from his plans and perspective drawing. In the process Planters have created two visually arresting Zen gardens inside a very modern building. These spaces will be enjoyed by millions of visitors each year. The most unique aspect is the sheer size of the Araucaria trees, which look very majestic and imposing and create an impressive focal point.
CHALLENGES Initially the logistics of delivering the plants to site on time and in good condition was a major consideration. The plants had to be prepared for shipping, packed into specially constructed containers and shipped by climate-controlled refer containers to New York during the winter. Once in New York, a special front-loading jumbo jet had to be diverted from its normal route to collect the trees. The shipment fitted into the plane with only inches to spare. At this end, handling such large wooden crates, each being the size of a 40-ft container was a concern. The Araucaria have very brittle branches, and so careful handling was essential. The large size of these trees meant that they only just fitted into the vehicle lift which transported them to the departure level. Again, moving the trees to their final positions had to be handled extremely carefully to prevent damage to the branches. They had to be carried for over 500 m to the planting area. This was no easy task with each tree weighing approximately one tonne.
LOGISTICS Planters were invited to tender for the project in 2005, which is when they began sourcing the plants. It was a challenge to locate the specified trees at the required heights. The Cycads were sourced in Florida and in Costa Rica and the 'Bonsai' Podocarpus came from China. Once the plants were sorted, it took a lot of searching to find an aircraft with the capacity to take them. Eventually Planters found a front loading 747 jumbo jet belonging to DHL and persuaded them to divert it from its normal route, through JFK airport in New York to collect these trees. It turned out to be the largest air shipment of plants ever undertaken. Once the flight was organised, the trees had to be packed into crates and trucked in climate controlled containers from Florida to New York, in the middle of winter. To ensure they were not damaged by the cold weather, the trucks had to wait at JFK for two days, with the climate control facility running until the plane arrived. When the plants arrived in Dubai, the Planters team went into action. Working non-stop for nearly 18 hours, they unpacked and transported the plants from the tarmac into the building. Over the next week the plants were put into their positions to create the East and West Zen gardens. The timing of the arrival of the trees and plants was very tight. The logistics of transportation and unloading were extremely difficult and had to be monitored very closely. Shipping tropical plants across several continents during winter weather created additional difficulties and moving 8.5m trees, weighing over a tonne each through tight narrow spaces required careful attention to detail and the highest standards of team-work. The highly specialised trees planted here need careful handling, care and maintenance in order to ensure the protection of this large investment in both financial and visual terms. Without a specialist team constantly caring for the scheme, the visual impact could be lost very quickly. Should the major trees fail, not only would it be extremely expensive to replace them, but it would also be a logistical nightmare, having to remove the old ones and then get the new ones into a busy airport.
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