The 23 Club 2014

This Trial Trailer for The 23 Club has been set up to function as an evaluation trailer to answer the question:  Is the content of The 23 Club attractive for the mainstream general public–people who look at plants, gardens and landscapes as something they like?

The 23 Club Beta 03 Edition is  available as a pdf file, here. The Beta 04 summaries, updated 24Sep2014 are below.


Updated 24Sep2014: Erik Chalmers, has a landscape obsession.  An experienced senior landscape architect, an American expatriate professional, he is a fixer; and the managers of a troubled resort project are begging him to come deep…deep into a strange landscape…deep into the Empty Quarter, the Rub al Khali.  He can not resist.

Erik Chalmers is a retired landscape architect, having worked and lived with his wife during his career in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.  Now living in their retirement home in the Bernese Alps, he gets a call from the United Arab Emirates.  They need his help; but his wife wants no part of going back to that culture or that arid sand desert.  He still has the fire to build great gardens and takes the chance.  Despite the unpredictable characters, incredible events and visceral threats from the morphogenetic living landscape of death, he persists.

The 23 Club, occurring in 2009 and 2010, takes place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  With relentless exposure, it uncovers the ugly reality of cross cultural conflicts in the boiling cauldron of massive five star destination resort projects, those being built at breakneck speed, in hostile environments, hostile landscapes.

Can Erik Chalmers get it built?  Can he maintain his family?  Can he overcome the pirates?  Can he withstand the Rub Al Khali, the empty Quarter?

Episode 1::Desertification

Erik Chalmers had recently retired with his wife in a remote mountain valley in Central Switzerland.  Comfortable in this rural life, Swiss style, with all modern conveniences, he and his wife have their life turned upside down, when Chalmers’ fire, his landscape obsession, is rekindled, receiving an urgent request to return to the Middle East, the geographic area of his specialty, to fix a huge landscape project gone awry in the infamous Empty Quarter.

Episode 2::It’s 2AM

Chalmers returns to the Middle East via Bahrain and Dubai.  In Bahrain, he bumps into a past colleague, and friend, Jean-Claude Thibaut, a Belgian ethnobotanist.  During his Bahrain stopover and his first days in Dubai, Chalmers immediately encounters unimaginable real life cross cultural challenges.  Experienced as he is, he maneuvers through them, though not without damage.  

Episode 3::Spike Lounge

On his way to his first project meeting, Chalmers takes a Dubai taxi, and rides through a classic landscape design experience, to arrive at a P.G. Wodehouse golf club.  Chalmers, stepping over and around cross cultural challenges, meets the Client’s representative, an aggressive, white, South African expatriate, and begins a tension filled relationship.

Episode 4::The Walk

Chalmers meets the project Landscape Architecture Consultant at one of the best, the busiest, the newest nodes of multi-cultural social life in 21st Century Dubai.  There, he encounters the consultant’s cynical detachment, which could easily undermine Chalmers’ success on this project.

Episode 5::Rub Al Khali Coastal

Chalmers and his Belgian colleague, Jean-Claude, begin a 300 kilometer transect through the Empty Quarter to arrive at the project site.  Unfortunately, it occurs on the night and day of a horrendous shamal windstorm.  That debilitating windstorm, becomes a lens, through which they describe their Empty Quarter transit…with its numerous impositions on life forms…its strangely powerful historic froth…and its stark black and white reality…with or without water…with or without life.  They begin where the Rub al Khali meets the Gulf, along the growing megalopolis that is the Gulf coast of the UAE.

Episode 6::Rub Al Khali Inland

Chalmers and Jean-Claude had started the Rub Al Khali landscape transect amidst the growing megalopolis that is the Gulf coast of the UAE.  Now, they are being truly impeded by the relentless, smothering, shamal.  As their transect path turns inland, out of the humid coastal influence, into the heart of the Empty Quarter, all intensities are magnified, all viewing lenses are distorted…or are they?

Episode 7::Liwa Qsar

Chalmers pursues his project work.  He meets key people in the project process of building a large, five star, resort destination in the Rub al Khali, a place where no one has ever lived.  He finds them every bit as strange…as powerful…as itinerant…as unpredictable as the desert itself.  Chalmers begins his dance with the Empty Quarter.

Episode 8::The Nursery

Chalmers unbundles a tangled mess around a large knot in his first effort to resolve a large part of his project process problems.  Unbundling is one thing, making a solution that works, that fits the budget, that resolves all quality and schedule issues…that is something else.  Chalmers will have to invest a lot of skin in this game.

Episode 9::Finding Majlis

It is show time for Chalmers.  As he prepares to meet, first, with his Belgian colleague, and then, with the South African Client representative, he walks though a five star resort destination garden.  The garden offers far more than sensual delights…the garden unbundles Chalmers.

Episode 10::Library Majlis

Chalmers finds the Library, and meets his colleagues, along with three unexpected Emiratis…three highly placed ruling family members.  Via delicious bits of conversation, they work through the outline of the challenges, and the strategies, to reach a solution that satisfies all.  But nothing is exactly as it seems.

Episode 11::Villa Majlis

Within the Library gardens, the six gentlemen relax, in a luxurious private villa, for more conversations over dinner, football, and an exquisite garden…an oasis nook suitable for another 1001 nights with Scheherazade.

Episode 12::Long and Sort

Chalmers Majlis evening brought major complications to his project work.  Resolution in the long term or the short term would not be simple.

Episode 13::Pilgrimage

After eight months of intense project efforts, and arduous cross cultural processes, Chalmers landscape obsession has worn him out.  Yet, he still finds time to outline, on his way home, the solutions to the natural and cultural and project challenges he encountered.

Episode 14::Wanderweg

Erik Chalmers turns his attention, once again, to his wife, Madge…and wonders…and hopes…

Appendix 1::Swiss Mountain Landscape Images

Appendix 2::Emirates Desert Landscape Images

Appendix 3::Chalmers’ Maps of Arabia

Explanatory Notes

These notes are a series of text sections including: Acknowledgements, Afterword, Brief Comments, and Index of Plants.

2 thoughts on “The 23 Club 2014

  1. Pingback: Digital Sandbox: a new mentoring paradigm? | The Field

  2. Pingback: Introspective garden pilgrimage | flahertylandscape

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