Please tell us about your family and educational background?
Hanya Abu Khuzam
What inspired you to get involved in the landscaping industry?
Landscape architecture has always been for me a combination of architecture, art and agriculture. Spending my childhood in the mountains made me closer to nature, and maybe more attentive to its beauty. Landscape architecture is such a rich major. It involves an analysis of existing social, ecological and geological conditions, and as a designer I have the chance to combine all of those aspects in an artistic way and produce the desired outcome. Landscape is inspiring.
Environmental responsibility, sustainability and water conservation are the big issues affecting the landscaping industry at the moment. How do you ensure these key factors are incorporated into your work without sacrificing on the overall design and layout of a project?
As a landscape designer my priorities before starting the design process are to study the environment and analyze the natural context where the site is located. That at a later stage is incorporated into the design on many levels; by using indigenous plants and avoiding plants that require a lot of water. Other aspects I take into consideration are using water efficiently by including low water consumption techniques like drip irrigation, rainwater collection as well as searching for environmentally friendly solutions.
Sometimes the design layout requires the use of material that might harm the environment directly or indirectly although they are either economical or esthetically appealing. It’s my role as a landscape designer to raise the client’s awareness on this mater and to provide sustainable alternatives to these materials.
Do you think that the scarcity of water in the UAE has put pressure on landscape architects to create more hardscape with arid desert plants and trees that can withstand the heat?
Water scarcity is affecting the UAE and the gulf in particular but it is now spreading worldwide due to climate change. It is our responsibility as landscape designers giving our everyday contact with nature, to expand this awareness to clients in regions that are newly suffering from water scarcity problems. Xeriscape is a concept that goes along with these principles and that should be considered more often in arid areas. It is important to mention that replacing softscape by hardscape is not the solution. This being said the ratio between the two could change according to the climatic context barring in mind the environmental requirements.
If so, do you agree that the need for water conservation and less irrigation will have a negative impact on your creative abilities when it comes to designing ‘green’ landscape?
I do agree that having limited resources could affect the overall design, and the garden might look less green and might be considered for some people less appealing. However I personally think that a designer is more challenged by these environmental limitations. Creativity can solve any problem and bring out new green ideas. Creativity doesn’t have limits.
Which project have you been most proud of in your career to date and why?
If you could create your dream project, what would it entail?
As a woman in a male dominated profession, what has been your experience working in this field in the Middle East?
How do you see your field developing in the Middle East and do you have any concerns, advice, opinions regarding this?
It’s on the rise for sure. Today more landscape companies are being established in the region, it is becoming more and more present and included in developing projects. I am recently working on more diversified projects in Lebanon and the Middle East. Although most projects concern the private sector, this is a start, hoping that it will spread more into the public sector. Municipalities should invest more in this field and recreate the idea of public gardens that would also represent public spaces.
Moreover, the developing of the landscape sector is very positive, but the designer should start being more responsible towards their milieu.
What advice would you give other women wanting to enter this profession, both here and overseas?
This is a delicate profession; it allows you to witness the beautiful change in nature. Designing a garden is like raising a baby; it starts with a seed and grows into something beautiful, something living. Every flower has a character, every tree has a meaning, all together represent the harmony and the peace nature offers us everyday. One needs to be passionate, appreciative, and sincere with nature to be able to succeed in this field.