Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia

Richard Bodeker with Prince Sultan bin Salman. The German architect landscaper recently passed away, but his green print lives on in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2019

Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia

  • German landscape architect’s passion — to turn Saudi Arabia into a lush garden — became his mission

RIYADH: For 46 years, Richard Bodeker was devoted to turning Saudi Arabia into a lush garden. The architect landscaper recently passed away, but his green print lives on as he is celebrated for his loving work.

Gardening runs deep in the family as both he and his wife’s family are in the profession. Bodeker considered himself blessed because he could do what he loved, working with plants and creating gardens.

“He developed a real love of Saudi Arabia as his favorite country and created many lifelong friendships in the Kingdom,” Bodeker’s son, Jens Bodeker, told Arab News.

His relationship with Saudi clients was special. They had a great mutual understanding, said his son. One of those special relationships was with Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Space Commission. Bodeker landscaped his Al-Uthaibat Ranch in Diriyah.

“He opened the doors to all his friends, clients, colleagues and partners in Saudi Arabia. Most of his contacts became close friends to me, too,” Jens said.

Saudi Arabia honored the late Bodeker and his works when the minister of culture, Prince Badr Al-Farhan, named a park in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter after the talented landscaper.

Creativity is key and he was never daunted by developing a green oasis in the midst of a desert capital. “As a plant lover, he was impressed by the survival strategies of desert plants. Acacia trees can develop 50-meter-deep roots to get water, for example. He was convinced to be able to water the trees by treated greywater which is produced by each citizen. So, each citizen could irrigate a tree by using water in the house,” Jens said.


THE LIST

Richard Bodeker projects in Saudi Arabia:

  • ‘Initiative Green’ developing a greening strategy for the city in the 1990s
  • Diriyah Mosque landscape design
  • King Fahd Road, the green corridor 
  • MOMRA, park and roof greening
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff housing
  • Court complex
  • King Abdul Aziz Historical Center parks and gardens
  • First ideas for King Salman Park, at that time Riyadh Public Park in the 1980s of last century
  • Thumamah Nature Park
  • Wadi Hanifah and Wadi Sulai as green lungs of Riyadh
  • Many private farms for members of the Royal family and many other clients
  • Initiation of a tree nursery for the Riyadh Development Authority
  • Regional park in Al-Hofuf,Jebel Qara

His vision to make use of the materials that can be found in nature with his strategy of “cut and fill,” in which he would cut Riyadh limestone and build a garden out of it. He maintained sustainability by using local sources for construction material. His approach was to create garden oases with local materials in respect of the site and the local culture, his son explained.

Bodeker’s passion was ramped with a desire to turn the desert capital into a green sanctuary. “He possessed strength, persuasiveness and the ability to assert himself to even fight for green, gardens and uncommon ideas. This passion made him an ambassador for green in the Kingdom,” he added.

Passion for his profession was the secret of his success: “Gardens and plants have been his lifelong loves,” said Jens, adding that “the creation of gardens was his real mission.”

 

Like father, like son 

Following his fathers’ footsteps, he inherited his passion and love for this country and landscape design from his father: “I feel the same passion when it comes to greening the country to work with nature and to follow nature in design,” he said.

“He shared his professional knowledge and passion for this country ... with me. The respect for tradition and culture in landscape design was essential,” he added.

“His passion for landscape design, especially the challenge to green the desert set me on fire and carries me to continue what he started. His focus laid on local material, like the Riyadh limestone and plants for arid regions to create lush garden oases.”

Of all his unique designs, Islamic gardens were the most symbolic. Jens explained: “Islamic gardens mirror paradise on earth with water, fruits and lush greens. He wanted to respond to this in his garden design works. Bodeker always saw gardens and green as the most important element in Riyadh.”

In 1993, Bodeker started the “Initiative Green,” which was Jens’ most significant influence.

The secret to great success is working with nature in environments, like the desert with its valleys, oases, escarpments, sand dunes and rock plains, he added.

“In Thumamah Nature Park, one can see the impact of land protection. The park is much greener than any landscape in the surroundings without that protection, just by fencing, nature recovers slowly,” Jens said.

“My part is to give my contribution to developing the landscape and environment for the better and give nature a chance. I will follow in his footsteps and will stand up for green as an ambassador for green environments, parks and gardens.”

From childhood, he and his brother had been strongly influenced by gardening and landscape design. For many years they worked together with their father. It was not always easy to work with him because his father had “a strong personality.” However, he noted that he found his own path which he learned through discussions and debates “to find my own place next to him.”


Ivanka Trump applauds Saudi Arabia’s reforms advancing economic role for women

Updated 17 January 2020

Ivanka Trump applauds Saudi Arabia’s reforms advancing economic role for women

  • Saudi women in business have lauded the Vision 2030 strategy for being the key driver in helping them to realize their ambitions

The United States President’s daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, praised on Friday Arab states for the progress they have made in their reforms highlighted in a World Bank Report.

“Great seeing some big progress in countries with the most improved scores this year in the World Bank WBL (Women, Business and the Law) report,” she said, referring to several countries mentioned in the report, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and Tunisia.

 

The World Bank’s annual “Women, Business, and the Law” report ranked Saudi Arabia top among 190 countries for its progress in bringing about reforms related to female involvement in economic development and entrepreneurship.  

According to the World Bank’s figures for 2020, Saudi Arabia scored 70.6 out of 100 for progress achieved in the integration of women into the labor market. The report’s findings also placed the country first among Gulf states, and second in the Arab world for meeting the criteria.

Saudi women in business have lauded the Vision 2030 strategy for being the key driver in helping them to realize their ambitions.