One of the more frustrating elements of the project recently has been to do with the site. We have been allocated part of what will be a new 125,000m2 landscaped public park in the centre of Damascus. It's about the best possible site we could have in terms of location, close to major hotels, public transport routes, the Old City, and other cultural attractions. However, it was clear from quite early on that the city's planners had little or no idea of how this important public facility should be designed and the various elements coordinated. Having decided on a large green public space, they then produced a huge list of buildings they wanted to include on it. They then accepted an offer from Austria to provide an underground car park along the length of the site. In December we held three lengthy meetings solely in order to remove unnecessary new buildings from the specification for the park. A few days ago we had another meeting at which the underground car park was considered - or rather, given cursory attention. Given that it will be the first element to be done and its entrances could ruin the entire frontage of the site, I am hoping that some proper terms of reference are put in place by the expert from France the city has now employed to draw the planning together.
At least the planning can now be considered together. At least five months have been lost in respect of the landscape design process due to mis-communication between Damascus and Vienna, and that has allowed our project to catch up. We should have our own architectural brief complete within weeks now. So the landscaping and architecure of the discovery centre can (in theory) be properly integrated, which is what we have wanted all along. Ideally, the experience inside the centre should flow easily into the outside world. We'll see.