What inspired you to become a landscape architect and was your educational background directly related to this?
In your opinion, what are the essentially attributes that any landscape architect should possess?
The Middle East has seen major developments in the landscaping industry over the past few years with major projects in the UAE, Qatar, and now Saudi Arabia. Now the attention must be turned to sustaining these ‘Green’ landscapes for years to come. How can this be done baring in mind our environmental responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and the limited skills of the maintenance workers who are left to preserve the landscapes, once the architects have handed over the job?
Yes it is amazing how much attention is given to “outdoor works” in the Middle Eastern countries and North Africa to Morocco. Lack of water can be helped by choosing adequate plants like draught resistant succulents, cactus and palms of all kinds. When conditions are given to design “dry Landscapes” we use all the mineral material available such as rocks, pebbles stone slabs, sculptured stone. Succulents, who live with minimum water, provide a vast choice of varieties.
Water will become the most precious resource in the coming years and it’s likely to become a source of conflict. How can you as a landscape professional plan ahead in your work to ensure that water is treated with the respect it deserves and not wasted?
In order to ensure economical treatment of water supply in landscaping in the Middle East, a serious professional irrigation company should be entrusted with the planning and execution of the work. The establishing of a dripping system underground is one way and of course watering should take place before or after this. Sun shading by heat resisting trees, like Eucalyptus and Acacias also helps. In order to avoid arid Landscape, desert plants should be used as ground covers. On a trip to Jordan, I did observe that plants in the desert survived months of draught looking dry and shrunk, but with a minor supply of water or a little rain in the winter, they will come to life and even bloom.
Do you believe that the landscape industry in this region will undergo a major change in their design practices and be forced to adapt in the years ahead to overcome this problem of water scarcity and how can you avoid having only arid landscapes?
With the increase of property development and high prices for land, landscaped areas will be less, unfortunately. Project managers tend to build the maximum allowed by law and even find ways to increase built-up areas. To add more plants, I tend to use climbers on walls pergolas, fences and so forth. These generally do with little water.
Which project have you been most proud of throughout your career and why?
The project I would be most proud of is one of the first I have done. It’s situated in the mountains of Lebanon at a thousand meters above sea level. It became a mature garden.
With time, it is a pleasure to see huge trees shading a spacious rock garden with water cascading on to a Lily pond. The garden is very colorful with a big variety of shrubs and roses of all kinds, climbers and bed roses.
A mixed border is flowering almost all year around and provides for an abundance of cut flowers.
If you could create your dream project, what would it entail?
The above garden is ordinarily my dream project. Being in the moderate climate zone, I could use a big variety of plants, conditions being better then in the subtropical area around Beirut or seaside conditions. There we can observe the change of seasons. Very rarely, there is snow and so all the Mediterranean plants do well. Just as do Cedars or high altitude trees like Acers and Trilias.
As a woman in a male dominated profession, what has been your experience working in this field in the Middle East?
Except on the occasion of our project, I always enjoyed working with respect to my male colleagues, the only one negative experience was on grounds of business interests. In all cases, I am backed up by my son who is also a passionate Landscape Architect.
With the exception of water, what are the main challenges your industry will encounter in the coming years and how can these be overcome in your opinion?
Land is becoming scarce and suburbs are becoming also expensive, therefore its best to take advantage and live in lightly built areas outside the city for enjoying nature.
What advice would you give other women wanting to enter this profession, both here and overseas?
My advise to women is to have a good educational background, live your life as a landscaper with ambition and passion. Always see and observe our wonderful world. Watch the nature behavior and development. It’s a wonderful world if we are ready to open our eyes.