|Name:||Group of Architects and Thinkers [GOAAT] and Shawkiyo Sthapotto|
|Client:||“The Palace” Luxury Resort and Spa|
| From the Architect|
The Palace Luxury Resort and Spa is located amidst remarkable and scenic landscapes surrounded by Rupaichara rubber forest, the Brindaban tea Estate as well as BaiccaBeel, Hail haor, which is one of the ecologically vibrant zone of Bangladesh. Located 70km from the city center, the site is strategically tucked away from urban chaos in an isolated plateau.
Existing landscape of the resort was a mixture of monoculture, like the rubber forest, tea garden and some open grassland with forest patches and shrubs that required huge labor and high maintenance. Landscaping around the guesthouses were largely done with unplanned non-native species and clusters of large trees grown for aesthetics only.The site had immense potential, however, improper species distribution, intensive monoculture practices and needless landscape features segregated the site.
Some remarkable areas with varieties of trees and numerous shrubs were seen on the North of the site only where local birds mostly gathered compared to other areas. Our walkthrough hardly showed diversity of mammals but we observed presence of Raptors, such as Shikra and Crested serpent eagle and numerous Spangled Drongo in those forest patches.
Located on terraced slopes, Rupaichara rubber forest, an old monoculture of the site is more of a disadvantage as it is non-native.Faunas and mammals that depend on rubber tree are very low. The nature of rubber species is such that, it absorbs moisture, dehydrating the soil, making it loose and prone to erosion as well as causing springs and valleys downstream to go dry. This monoculture was allowed to grow by trimming of any vegetation that naturally grew underneath and lack of knowledge resulted in an empty forest devoid of species.
Despite being a monoculture tea garden had visibly more species diversity than rubber forest; we observed plant species like Chapalish, Mandar and Jackfruit scattered all over and spotted only mammal Capped Langur as well as foxes.Due to local’s dependence on native plant species for wood, logs, Beetle, medicinal plants and construction materials the tea garden was more diverse.Local settlements along the periphery of the tea garden was a preying ground for raptors.
Our study of species distribution for both plant and animal helped identify areas that interfered with wildlife and provided zero ecosystem services.The landscape design we proposed was imagined as a“closed-loop” system that is self-sufficient, not imposed or borrowed yet inclusive for wildlife.Our concept of any landscape solution comes from the understanding of the sensitivity of the context and its interrelation with the existing biota. Walking through the site we identified critical spots and loose ends where thoughtful ecological engineering could integrate the landscape for a “closed loop” zero waste system using handpicked native species for a performative landscape.
Our main approach involved regenerating deforested spaces, establishing physical connections by creating natural corridors and pockets with key species to ensure natural sprawl, movement and habitat growth while also minimizing conflict between wildlife and tourist. Ecological engineering in key spots ensured a natural self-sustaining, low maintenance system with dedicated routes for tourists as well as wildlife.
The landscape proposal was implemented in phases and we started off by restoring the rubber forest to protect the local water resources and the existing biota. Rubber forest had to be deforested gradually, layer by layer and reforested with 150 varieties of about 100,000 species.Fifteen types of native bamboo species and carefully selected trees were planted around the springs to regenerate them and increase the water retaining capacity of the soil which is crucial to maintain the natural water resources.
To ensure a closed loop zero waste system, the logs were reused as retaining walls in various locations .Seven types of Ficus was planted every 50 feet as a host plant for other species to promote the propagation through birds.
Major access routes and unsafe openings were protected with soft, permeable boundary using heavy foliage, fast growing and fragrant species instead of using rough fencing or any artificial element that could interrupt wildlife movement.
Tree lined avenues were proposed at major locations to create multiple atmosphere with seasonal variety of colors, varied fragrance of colorful flowers and foliage to improve the air quality, create visual stimuli and overall ambiance of the site. Landscaped spots at alternative locations with shrubs, nectar based and fruit based plants helped attract local birds and butterflies.
A visually obstructive and high retaining wall at the entrance of the resort was replaced with an artificial waterfall of 10,000 square feet using aquatic vegetation collected from the local Haor that turned out to be interaction point for human, birds and wildlife.
Trekking routes, natural pathways, resting spots and bamboo bridges were minor interventions to the site with the help of local labor. Our strategy to use native species only that were handpicked from the site and surroundings, addition of host plants at prime spots creating suitable habitats dramatically turned around the landscape into an active ecosystem that reciprocates with its Biota.
Project: Ecological Restoration and Landscape Design of “The Palace” Luxury Resort and Spa
Architect: Md. Rabiul Islam and ShahidullahFaruq
Ornithologist: Sayam U. Chowdhury
Consultant: Group of Architects and Thinkers [GOAAT] and Shawkiyo Sthapotto
Location: Bahubal, Habiganj
Client: “The Palace” LuxuryResort and Spa
Date: October 2014
Area: 250 Acre
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