Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capitol, has slowly transformed into a sprawling city over the years, full of silver skyscrapers and modern buildings. The city is home to over 5 million inhabitants and bears little resemblance to the land that used to be covered with date trees and orchards. Riyadh roughly translates to “garden” in Arabic and it is a suitable name for a region with such fertile soil.
It is only fitting that the world’s largest greenhouse will reside in the garden city of Saudi Arabia. Barton Willmore, a British design and architectural planning company is working with the civil engineers at Buro Happold to create the 160 hectare King Abdullah International Gardens (KAIG).
This garden will be housed in two giant interlocking crescent domes with 120ft high ceilings. Costing almost a million dollars per hectare, KAIG will do more than just house a variety of pretty plants: The structure is meant to showcase the various global ecosystems with an underlying lesson in sustainable development.
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King Abdullah International Gardens – The Master Plan
The high domes eliminate the need for constant air-conditioning by allowing the hot air to float to the ceiling, trapping the cool air below. Rainwater is harvested and stored in underground reservoirs and used for irrigation. Solar panels and wind turbines will generate a large portion of the electricity needed to power the structure.
Once the project is completed in 2010, visitors will walk through a wide range of gardens meant to illustrate the evolutionary history of plants, current ecosystems and finally, the earth’s potential in the future. The last exhibit-”The Garden of Choices” – allows those interested to see how today’s choices directly impact global ecosystems. Various paths stimulate what the world would look like depending on the choices made: visitors zig-zag through lush gardens indicating what would eventually become reality if new environmentally friendly technologies and ideals were adopted. These gardens gradually recede and transform into an unappealing dry and charred landscape to indicate what would potentially happen with indifference and the continued trends of pollution.
KAIG will hopefully educate visitors in making the right environmental choices, but even if that isn’t the case, at least this man-made wonder will provide breathtaking glimpses into the earth’s botanical past, present and potential future.