Jonathan Ashmore on designing with context in mind

Jonathan Ashmore on designing with context in mind

Anarchitect, Interior design, Jonathan Ashmore

Jonathan Ashmore, founder and director of Anarchitect, writes about the challenges when designing outdoor spaces. 

It is imperative to look back at the heritage of the region to understand the traditional use of outdoor spaces and their cultural and social importance. The traditional souks, bazaars and markets were engaging and functional outdoor spaces, which have since been superseded by a modern desire for air-conditioned malls and hermetically sealed venues.

Embracing the reality that we have at least seven months of great outdoor weather per year allows us to seek the opportunities for the outdoor spaces to once again play an important role in the region. This trend is already in full flow with pop-ups and farmers’ markets; to varied outdoor events. Even developers now emphasise the importance of public realm in their latest projects, as seen with The City Walk, The Beach or at Dubai Design District. This is a natural response to a demand from people to be more engaged with the outdoors and take advantage of the health and wellness benefits it brings.

Most cities grow organically over the centuries and the need for outdoor parks, squares and courtyards occurs naturally in response to society’s want to socialise, gather and converse in these open spaces. With modern regional cities the growth is super accelerated; highlighting the importance of joint design input from a landscape architect together with the architect, interior designer and engineer in order to make the best use of the in-between and open spaces in new developments as well as to identify redevelopment opportunities within.


The outdoors should be an extension of the indoor space and the opportunity to create outdoor living and commercial spaces that not only engage with architecture and interior but truly respond to the contextual climate to create ecosystems that reduce the requirements for artificial infrastructure. Where outdoor spaces were previously superimposed and manicured, requiring high maintenance and attention, we now see the trend for more sensitive and sympathetic landscape and outdoor space that meets the needs of people to be in the open air while respecting the limitations created by the localised climate.

Further understanding of the need to be outdoors has been seen in the advancement in material technology which helps to increase the possibilities and popularity of outdoor space. In the residential sector, in particular, this technological advancement has also contributed to a new trend for premium outdoor furniture as client demands require design comfort and quality for outdoor; just as high as they are for indoor requirements.

The biggest changes we are seeing are the demand for outdoor spaces particularly in the residential, F&B and hospitality sectors regionally. Key challenges we face include the selection of appropriate materials, the connectivity to indoor spaces, shade, creating viewpoints and also concerns and requirements of privacy, particularly for both residential and hospitality. The key is in understanding the requirements of these outdoor spaces and to create spaces that engage with both the end user and operator so that spaces can function properly as an extension of the interior.


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