During the sixties, Al Ain was converted from a gathering of dispersed communities around date plantations with small vegetation to an officially organized contemporary green city. The city’s urban structure is made up of a straight grid of modern highway structures (illustrated in figure 1). There are landscapes with wide junctions on major higher, which contribute tremendously to the scene of the garden city. Roadsides are aestheticized with green floor covers providing small areas similar to garden spaces usually used at picnic spots at night (Dyke, 1995). Government office buildings also offer landscaped areas that serve as makeshift picnic venues. The city’s green and luxurious scenery cuttingly contrasts with the adjoining harsh desert and is an attraction for tourists.
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Al Ain is the homeland of UAE’s royal family and was conceived, designed and established by government planning and municipalities sectors. Sheikh Zayed always dreamed that Al Ain will become a green haven for its residents (Dyke, 1995). The city’s numerous gardens and community parks city are majorly developed for passive recreational purposes. They are comprehensively landscaped within a formal regular layout and usually exemplify archetypal Western planning ideas that oppose the conservative, covered open areas in the customary date plantations of the actual oasis.
Although landscapes that are rather more suitable for European environments are popular in the Middle East (Shane, 2010), the use of such landscapes by Middle Eastern countries is usually seen as an essential step towards development and modernization, while the effect of ignoring climatic and sociocultural variables during design has usually disregarded. Although there are numerous parks and gardens in Al Ain, they are rarely used in the daytime due to the arid desert climate.
Purpose of the Research
Al Ain residents’ opinions will best describe the effects of public open areas. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to investigate residents’ visual evaluation and inclination for the various scenery design systems characteristic to the city’s gardens and open areas. The outcome of the research will offer a better appreciation of Al Ain residents’ experiences of the city’s aesthetics, providing the designers and developers useful information to be integrated for future design projects or expansion plans of current gardens.
People are traditionally responsible for the formation and expansion of their communities and they engage in the organizing of their physical and social surroundings. Therefore, community values and settings represented residents’ inclinations. People, similar to other living things, have needs, and their wellbeing depends on the satisfaction of these needs. However, the procedure by which these needs are met affects the environment (Paul, 2006). Nowadays, people design their environs to respond to their needs, paying little or no attention to the possible effects of their activities on the natural surroundings.
A plethora of literature highlights the negative effects of human activities on natural habitats. Humans’ activities have changed the natural environment and resulted in dire consequences to all living organisms, and initially healthy ecosystem for other living organisms is now repeatedly ruined (Messing, 2009). It is important that a visual plan guides the transformation of every city. Public opinion of the city’s aesthetics is important for the successful development of this plan (Messing, 2009).
It is important to investigate the influence of transforming traditional societies developed and natural habitats into urban cities by analyzing residents’ perceptions and assessments of the new environment. An analysis of Al Ain residents’ opinions of the environment will aid the decisions of city planners. This means that choice environments will be the environments that provide satisfaction for human needs.
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This research applies the survey approach to examine the visual evaluation of the various open areas in Al Ain by unprofessional residents. Different research studies have indicated the efficacy of preference ratings as a tool for examining people’s assessment of natural or built scenes (Canuto & Jason, 2000). While people differ in different areas, the conformism of their visual assessment of the built or natural environments shows some mutual needs present in these contexts.
Due to mutual culture, biology, and social backgrounds, people will show some conformity in their evaluative responses. Participants’ choice scores of the garden and open area scenes should offer a useful indication of their opinion of both the contents and arrangement of the locations. When assessing the environmental quality of an area, people consider the picture plane features of the area and then try to predict the way they would feel and function if they visited the scene (Canuto & Jason, 2000). The survey instrument puts this into consideration and focuses on individuals’ pictorial and experiential judgment of Al Ain’s open areas and gardens.
A self-controlled picture-questionnaire was developed and assessed before its delivery to a randomly selected sample of Al Ain’s populace. The questionnaire, which had both verbal and graphic sections, investigated the participants’ opinions of Al Ain’s scenes. A five-point Likert was used to value the participants’ opinions of the scene features. The questionnaire also investigated the popularity of the scenes asking respondents to indicate the scenes they easily recognized. The verbal section of the questionnaire investigated the participants’ opinions of the city’s public gardens and recommendations for their improvement. This study focuses on the examination of the graphic section because the verbal section is locally more beneficial to the city planners and developers.
The questionnaire was distributed to participants through Al Ain’s Facebook page. All completed questionnaires were collated after one week. The Al Ain fan page has about 14,000 active members. A total of 158 participants fully completed and submitted the questionnaire.
Most of the respondents indicated that they had no knowledge of design (95.8%). Most of the respondents were between the ages of (42.6%) fell in the 20 to 30 years age range, followed by 18.6% who fell between the 30 to 40 years age range. About 70% of the participants had resided in Al Ain for over fifteen years. It was difficult to select the scenes to include in the study due to their diverse features and sizes. Ninety colored pictures of public parks, vegetated roadsides, governmental open area, and traditional oases, were selected. 24 pictures were selected as the sample to be included in the research, which represented the popular design and landscaping features in Al Ain’s scenes. Appendix 1 shows the pictures included in the visual questionnaire.
Results and Analysis
The quantitative data gathered through the survey was analyzed using SPSS. Frequency analyses were computed and the different locations were graded according to participants’ preferences. A factor analysis was used to identify the mutual relationships in the sample’s perception and assessment of the selected scenes. The average preference rate for each sample scene was computed to offer an understanding of participants’ assessment of various open areas, characteristics, and design methods. The table below rates the sample scenes in descending order.
Aesthetic Assessment of Open Area Scenes.
|6||Photo # 8||3.85||1.2|
|7||Photo # 15||3.83||1.18|
|8||Photo # 18||3.8||1.14|
|9||Photo # 24||3.79||1.22|
|10||Photo # 7||3.76||1.11|
|11||Photo # 1||3.74||1.22|
|12||Photo # 13||3.73||1.14|
|13||Photo # 2||3.72||1.26|
|14||Photo # 3||3.7||1.23|
|15||Photo # 21||3.7||1.09|
|16||Photo # 22||3.7||1.29|
|17||Photo # 23||3.7||1.23|
|18||Photo # 14||3.66||1.18|
|19||Photo # 11||3.65||1.16|
|20||Photo # 20||3.57||1.07|
|21||Photo # 9||3.46||1.13|
|22||Photo # 19||3.4||1.24|
|23||Photo # 12||3.22||1.3|
|24||Photo # 5||3.18||1.36|
Through category identification analysis, it was possible to analyze the participants’ assessment of the scenes. The factor analysis produced six components categorizing the 24 locations based on the participants’ evaluations of the scenes’ artistic qualities and their inclinations for the unique characteristics. An in-depth analysis of the scenes categories (as presented in the table below) resulted in the labeling of six different categories.
|Table 2: Loadings on Factors|
|Scenes||Communalities||Designed Landscapes||Recreational Parks||Promenade and Seating||Streets||The Oasis||Sunset|
The first dimension is designed landscapes. Locations 2, 6, 7, 8, 13, 16, and 22 all share well-established landscape design approaches that apply detailed landscape tools and structures including water fountains, shaped and methodically planned plantations, and green spaces. The second dimension comprises of recreational parks. Locations 1, 4, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 20 are from popular leisure parks for tourists and residents. The third dimension comprises promenade and seating areas and includes locations 7, 18, 21, 23, and 24. These scenes are mostly walkways in natural habitats, most of them with parasols seating and relaxing. The fourth dimension is the street scene and comprises of locations 5 and 12, both characterized by landscaped highways with moving cars. The fifth dimension is the oasis scene and is made of locations 3, 9, and 19. The sixth dimension is the sunset scene and comprises location 11.
New factors were developed and the scenes were categorized. The average preference ranking was computed to identify participants’ preference for the different scene categories based on their aesthetic assessments. Participants’ ratings of the dimensions are presented in Table 3.
Table 3: Dimension Preferences Ranking.
|3||3-Promenade and Seating||3.68||0.96|
People are traditionally responsible for the formation and expansion of their communities and they engage in the organizing of their physical and social surroundings. Communities these people create directly reflect residents’ preferences and needs. People, similar to other living things, have needs, and their wellbeing depends on the satisfaction of these needs. However, the procedures by which these needs are met affect the environment.
Nowadays, people design their environs to respond to their needs, paying little or no attention to the possible effects of their activities on the natural surroundings. This paper investigated Al Ain’s residents’ visual evaluation and inclination of the various scenery design systems characteristic to the city’s gardens and open areas. The outcome of the research offers a better appreciation of Al Ain residents’ experiences of city’s aesthetics, providing the designers and developers useful information to be integrated for future design projects or expansion plans of current gardens.
This research applied the survey approach to examine the visual evaluation of the various open areas in Al Ain by unprofessional residents. During the sixties, Al Ain was converted from a gathering of dispersed communities around date plantations with small vegetation to an officially organized contemporary green city. The city’s urban structure is made up of a straight grid of modern highway structures.
There are landscapes with wide junctions on major higher, which contribute tremendously to the scene of the garden city. Roadsides are aestheticized with a green floor covers providing small areas similar to garden spaces usually used at picnic spots at night. Government office buildings also offer landscaped areas that serve as makeshift picnic venues. The city’s green and luxurious scenery cuttingly contrasts with the adjoining harsh desert and is an attraction for tourists.
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Research studies have indicated the efficacy of preference ratings as a tool for examining people’s assessments of natural or built scenes. While people differ in different areas, the conformism of their visual assessment of the built or natural environments shows some mutual needs present in these contexts. Data analysis was performed using SPSS. Frequency analyses were computed and the different locations were graded according to participants’ preferences.
The following conclusions may be drawn from the data analysis. Most residents of Al Ain prefer recreational parks that combine natural habitats with established landscaping methods and provide different recreational facilities. The two scenes are popular are perceived as the main attractions in Al Ain for both residents and tourists. Rated closely to recreational parks is the well planned and well-landscaped scene, which includes locations that include various landscape design characteristics such as lakes, fountains, well-trimmed flowers, trimmed lawns, etc. Al Ain residents also prefer the presence of parks walkways and seafronts enclosed by natural settings and this is logical because the parks are mostly used by families with kids.
Participants ranked the natural oasis low and this may be due to the poor incorporation of the remaining natural date farms into the open spaces. Most of the remaining date farms are shut from the public, and cannot be seen from outside making it unpopular amongst residents. It is also possible that Al Ain’s residents do not prefer the natural oasis scenes because they are located on the outskirts of the city.
Canuto, M. A. & Jason, Y. (2000). The Archaeology of Communities. New York: Routledge.
Dyke, G. (1995). The Oasis. Dubai: Motivate Publishing.
Messing, A. (2009). Panxenos: an outsider’s sociology of self. Human Architecture, 7 (4). pp. 155-172.
Paul, J. (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back. London: Sage Publications.
Shane, S. (2010). Frommer’s Dubai. NJ: John Wiley & Sons.