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Can you give us a brief about your educational background and your experience in the GCC area.
I studied Landscape architecture at Newcastle University in the UK as a masters degree finishing in 1987 following a general academic degree in history, politics and economics. I have worked in private practices ever since qualifying including RPS Clouston as an Associate and Broadway Malyan Landscape as a freelance landscape architect before setting up my own company in 1995. However, by 2008 I found myself in something of a rut and spotted the opportunity of working overseas. I had spent some time in Turkey with my previous employer and then six months in Malaysia and had always enjoyed the challenges and surprises of other climates and cultures.
When did Al Shamsi Terrafirma first set up business?
Alshamsi Terrafirma was established in January 2006. Lionel Fanshawe, the UK director of The Terra Firma Consultancy grew up in the Gulf as a result of his father being in the Royal Navy during the 1960’s. The company is a joint venture between a well established UK Landscape consultancy and a UAE based enterprise, Alshamsi Holdings, not a sponsorship. The connection was made through a third party following work Terra Firma had undertaken in Beirut and at Tittenhurst Park in England for His Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan. One of our Directors, Jamie Liversedge worked in Dubai 20 years ago and he has had continuing involvement with schemes in the region ever since. Although he now runs the Landscape architecture course at Greenwich University he is a frequent visitor to us in Dubai. I joined the company in June 2008 and became resident director shortly afterwards.
How has your business expanded since its inception?
It has been a bumpy ride, from a rapid expansion in 2008 to cope with the huge amount of schemes around at the time including a large landscape masterplanning project at Al Falah, Abu Dhabi to the all too familiar downturn in workload in 2009 which caused us to reduce staff numbers. Our main objectives were then was for the practice to expand into other countries in the region. Between The Terra Firma Consultancy in the UK and Alshamsi Terrafirma in Dubai we have now worked in 23 different countries in the world, half of these are from Dubai since the establishment of the practice in 2006.
Who are your major clients and what major projects have you been involved with on their behalf?
Some of our early work, prior to my arrival was for the Engineer’s office and we had already worked on a number of projects directly for Emaar and other well known developers in Dubai both in the UAE and in the region. We have also worked for Aldar and TDIC on projects in Abu Dhabi and local and international residents on private developments.
A high proportion of our work comes as sub-consultants to architects and engineers including local, regional and international companies.
One of the earliest projects before my arrival in Dubai was the Marina Sales Centre in Umm Al Quwain for Emaar. This was an interesting project because it is all about making an impact with potential buyers and providing a comfortable atmosphere for sales. The landscape has a little bit of everything for including streetscapes, an entrance plaza, gardens, decks over-looking the coast and a seating area.
We worked on the Landscape Concept for Al Falah New Community for Aldar with GHM Design architects based in Abu Dhabi which was a great project and we enjoyed working with architects who were receptive to our ideas and strategies and it felt like we were very much in a partnership with them taking their masterplan forward with respect to the landscape. Another significant project is Manarat Al Saadiyat for TDIC with Aedas architects because it was an extremely fast track project using materials which were available that week, introduced the idea of low irrigation and native like semi-desert planting with gravel areas, ghaf trees and acacias in perimeter and car park areas with more ornamental shrubs, turf and more mature trees in entrance areas. Finally, we worked on Al Muneera at Al Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi with Waterman International (Resident Engineers), in the role of landscape supervisors. It wasn’t our design but our job was to inspect and supervise the construction of hard and soft landscape including water features. The architectural and engineering design had been developed since the landscape design was prepared so some coordination was required with much the planting and water features to be refined and rationalized but again it was a challenging project at the ‘front line’ for both supervision and resolution of site design issues. There’s no better way to learn.