Henry Duck, director at The Vero Studio, talks about the firm’s 10-year anniversary and his learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic

2020 was to be a year full of excitement and anticipation as the studio celebrated its tenth birthday in November. As we started drafting celebratory plans for a decade of Vero in late 2019, I am not sure any of us could have predicted what was coming in 2020, and just how much it would impact the world and the “normal” ways of working we are all so used to and comfortable with. The impacts of the pandemic were no different to Vero than any other landscape design practice with the studio being closed for six months with the team working remotely from various locations throughout the UAE. As the year draws to a close, there is no uncertainty surrounding the fact that 2020, has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging years the studio has faced since our formation in 2010. However, in many ways, it has also been a year for reflection and a stark reminder of just how adaptable we can be as humans when collectively faced with adversity.

Port De La Mer Project, Dubai

We work in an industry where teamwork truly is paramount to all that we do, whether it’s a team of five landscape architects working on a concept or a team of hundreds of consultants across many disciplines working as part of a design team on a project. Having returned to the studio and re-uniting the team in early November (albeit with desks slightly spread out, masks and temperature checks on arrival) and being able to witness the daily buzz that has thankfully been restored in our busy studio, it is hard to imagine that we all spent six months working in isolation and still delivered work to a high standard on a range of complex and challenging projects. What has collectively been achieved in 2020, is not just a testament to Vero but The UAE and the design industry as a whole. I feel that there will be some significant and positive changes to how we work moving forward and I think if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that you don’t need to get on a plane and fly two thousand miles for a two-hour meeting or jump in a car and sit on Sheikh Zayed Road for two hours for a thirty-minute meeting.

Al Wathba Desert Resort, Abu Dhabi

The pandemic has witnessed the rise and emergence of platforms such as Teams, GoToMeeting and Zoom and these have been highly effective in not only increasing efficiencies but also significantly reducing the carbon footprint across our industry. I genuinely believe this will be the future and the “new normal” of how we work. Despite all of this, there is much to be positive and excited about as the year and indeed decade draws to a close. The studio has continued to expand and grow throughout its ten years of operations and there have been various changes and challenges along the way. One of the biggest changes and challenges I have witnessed in the studio has been the transition into BIM. This had been in the pipeline for a few years, but our hand was forced when we won a large project with Killa Design back in late 2019, which required us to use BIM. Since the transition, we really haven’t looked back and although we fully acknowledge it’s a work in progress and has been very painful at times, we feel it offers so much more to both our clients and fellow Consultants and it is highly rewarding to not only be one the leading boutique landscape design studios in Dubai, but also one of the only landscape architecture studios who is working in BIM.