Lets build an Oasis@HIA, Doha

Reimagining Green@Doha, July 2018

Touch down at Hamad International Airport (HIA), Doha, one is greeted with a designed landscape with geometrical patterns of shrubbery of different colours and heights in an arrangement which has become synonymous with international airports. This landscape sits on one side is reflected in the gloss of futuristic architecture and from the air seems to sit incongruously in a desert expanse. We had just cruised over the desert sands and blue water and this splash of green was welcoming but rather startling as we were after all in the midst of a desert. The Landscape Architect is questioning how is this green being maintained and further…. why green? What is the landscape for the dry climes? And should we use the word landscape at all if it misleads clients and users to imagine green.

Entering the terminal building at HIA an interior of steel and glass is waiting to create the quintessential impression of prosperity, globalization as evident at most airports today. What is surprising is the near absence of green on the inside. The terminal, at least the large circulation spaces, waiting spaces and commercial areas are devoid of green walls, interior plants. The only green evident is a splattering of preserved palms and some artificial turf (more to celebrate FIFA than landscape). The business lounges are peppered with green walls recessed behind panels of mirrors. But contrasting with this innovatively thought through interior for the privileged, where is the equitable distribution of green where the environment allows it… in the interior and not harsh climes of the exterior? Where is the needed fresh air for the tired traveller flying in from around the world as is obvious with the increasing preference shown to Qatar airways. It is about understanding landscape as adding value to a space, value related to our health, healing and general wellbeing absolutely vital to airport interiors.

Why do we choose to introduce plants in a harsh exterior and little or no green in a controlled interior where they will flourish? Questions that are playing on my mind….. Can we use the language of the sea and sands in our open spaces leading to the Hamad airport? Can we showcase our palms and oasis plants in the interior? Can each airport tell its own story to the expectant traveller rather than being a medium to showcasing aesthetics that seem to display wealth and prosperity.

Having worked on the Terminal 3 Landscape for the Delhi International Airport exactly a decade ago these are some of the questions that have been emerging for which the answers are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle being discovered and put in place slowly yet deliberately with every journey.

The quest for sustainability, nature culture journey, making peace with the present for a meaningful future rests on learning from the past and innovating for the future. Its about working with culture, context and commonsense.