Canadian Architect


Vancouver’s Grout McTavish Architects design tropical forest bio-dome in Dubai

November 9, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Meraas, a Dubai-based holding company, has announced the opening of The Green Planet at CITY WALK in Dubai, the region’s much awaited and only standalone educational and recreational bio-dome, featuring over 3,000 plants and animals. 

Designed by Vancouver architects Brad McTavish and Clive Grout of Grout McTavish ArchitectsThe Green Planet recreates a lush tropical forest for visitors to immerse themselves in the intimate and unique sensory experience. The facility also mimics the habitat to the point of regulating the temperature and humidity levels of the venue so that visitors can not only see what life is like in such an ecosystem, but can also have a vivid first-hand experience.

The architecture is based on a fragile Origami cube that shields and protects a living Biome within the shape of a cylinder. The exterior cube houses the support spaces required to sustain a living environment designed to accommodate the species of tropical plants, mammals, insects and fish within the desert setting of Dubai. Its mandate is to provide the people of Dubai with an opportunity to experience and gain a deeper understanding of the fragile ecosystem of the Equatorial regions and how these regions of the world need to be protected for our sustainable future.

The concept for the visitor experience was developed to show how the various species that inhabit the rainforest can be found in the vertical zones of a Kapok tree; from its flooded river bank setting to its upper canopy. Visitors enter The Green Planet at grade level and begin their journey through a flooded rainforest river, containing an aquarium and grotto with fresh water fish, set within eroded riverbanks of the Amazon, containing ferns and mosses from the region to gain insight into the foundation of the Kapok trees emergence within the Rainforest and how the river is the progenitor for the evolution of co-dependent species above.

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Upon the completion of this immersive aquarium experience, visitors ascend to the upper reaches of the building via high speed lifts to emerge at the upper branches of the Kapok tree where they descend down a series of spiral ramps around, and within the Biome, to discover the varied habitats of tropical rain forest, from the butterflies and birds within the canopy of the tree, to the snakes and leaf cutter ants on the rainforest floor. Upon the completion of their visit, guests then cross over the river they began their journey and descend down to grade via escalators to the Visitor Centre and lobby.

In addition to accommodating 750,000 annual visitors, The Green Planet was designed to include an educational learning centre with laboratories and classrooms where students attend class and conduct experiments both in class and within the Biome in order to gain a deeper understanding of the Biological Sciences and habitat preservation. These Ministry of Education approved studies have been developed in conjunction with the Centre to foster conservation efforts in the Rain Forest Regions of the World.

The project required the assembly of a worldwide team of specialist engineers, scientist and animal husbandry experts under guidance of Grout McTavish Architects to create an authentic Rainforest in an extreme desert setting that is Dubai. This required the team to pay particular attention to the essentials for life: sun, water and soil and how the environment they were creating would survive and thrive within the desert. This unique mandate afforded them the rare opportunity to study and develop very advanced engineering and architectural systems that they are now looking to apply to future projects such as water conservation. 

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

With water being a precious resource in Dubai, the building was developed as a living machine able to sustain itself while providing a constant tropical environment able to support its inhabitant in an outside environment that can experience daily temperatures reaching 52 degrees celsius. With little available local resources, the building was designed to limit its impact on the available services of the municipality and features advanced life support and filtration systems, passive humidification of the Biome and harvesting condensate, grey and irrigation water in order to support and recycle water for use within the facility and the rainforest environment.

Commenting on the opening, Jean-Marc Bled, General Manager, Leisure & Entertainment at Meraas said, “The Green Planet was created with an aim to transport family and friends into the very heart of a tropical forest and give them a striking glimpse of the inner workings of such an ecosystem. By creating such a unique and immersive experience, we hope to showcase science in action and instill a sense of appreciation amongst visitors so that we can understand our eco system better in order to preserve it.” 

Head architect of The Green Planet, Brad McTavish said, “The whole building was designed from a simple story about recreating a tropical forest within Dubai. We gathered and worked very closely with zoologists, aquarium specialists, and sophisticated mechanical and structural engineers to pool together our expertise to create the perfect habitat for the species at The Green Planet. What we have fashioned is a majestic living machine that sustains life and is easily accessible to all.’

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Image Credit: Daniel Cheong Photographer

Horticulturist Rob Halpern added, “The Green Planet is an ecology museum, and we want visitors to both have a good time, see something beautiful, but also learn something important about nature, and the way nature works. There is a great deal of life, a great deal of diversity, and that’s why this ecology museum in Dubai centres on the tropical forest as it is to best tell the story of an ecosystem.”

The facility is operated by a team of highly trained professionals from the ZoOceanarium Group, a specialized company with over 20 years of experience in developing and operating the next generation of aquarium and zoological facilities. The group has been involved with The Green Planet since its conceptualization through to animal acquisition, animal care and daily operations of the facility, making sure no efforts were spared to ensure operations are in strict accordance with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Completed in 2016, The Green Planet has emerged as the top education-based visitor attraction within Dubai providing an immersive and educational experience on the fragile Ecosystem of the World’s rainforest and fulfilling its mandate to inspire the youth of Dubai to be better engaged in supporting and encouraging a more sustainable future.

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