Located within the diplomatic district of Sana’a, the 1.5ha masterplan for the British Embassy gardens responds to the cultural and geographic conditions of the site, providing a vibrant and elegantly-designed landscape.
The project was initiated following a review of security across the FCO’s overseas network, which concluded that a new embassy compound with improved security measures was necessary to continue operations in Sana’a. Coe Design’s landscape was chosen by the FCO due to its innovative approach to the brief, offering visitors a showcase of British design excellence through its incorporation of the celebrated principals of traditional Moorish/Islamic Gardens within a contemporary and well-protected landscape for the embassy.
The ‘Paradise Garden’ theme provides four distinct character zones within the garden with varying levels of height, privacy and shelter. Authentic mud walls have been erected using the ‘Zabur’ method that is traditional to the Sana’a area and were constructed utilising teams of local craftsmen. The walls create terraces, enclosed gardens and frame views, offering visitors private spaces in which to relax and enjoy the landscape.
The overall design strategy was informed by the need to create shelter within the gardens, providing relief from prevailing winds and extreme weather conditions. The British Embassy sits at a high altitude approximately 2330m above sea level, on a sloping site near the base of Jabal Nuqum. This unique location generates an intense microclimate, which is severely dry, but with periodic heavy rainfall and severe northerly winds during the night. The practice’s introduction of a screen of forestry trees and under storey plants, with shelter belts of selected indigenous forest plants, works to lessen the impact of high winds and mitigates soil loss.
A zone-based planting system ensures the enduring survival of the garden, with species requiring more water placed closer to the building and those with higher tolerance to drought located further away around the perimeter. The design also includes a sustainable system for water recycling, whereby grey water and collected rain water can be used in the building and in the landscape for irrigation.
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Coe Design Artas-ua.info Architecture
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
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Emirates Glass Leaf award for 'Best Environmentally Sustainable Building of the Year' 2008; RIBA International Award, 2007
Opened in 2006
The creation of a new embassy compound combining improved security with a showcase of British design excellence and sustainability to continue FCO operations in Sanaa
Architect: Design EngineLead Consultant: Whitby Bird (now Ramboll UK)
Main Contractor: Gibs LtdStructural &
M+E Engineer: Whitby Bird (now Ramboll UK)
Bomb Blast Consultants: D J Goode & Associates
Project Manager: Gleeds BBL / Gleeds Gulf
Quantity Surveyor: Cyril Sweet & DG Jones and Partners
CDM Coordinator: PCM Safety
Stone paths, terraces and walls use local Yemeni stone in a variety of colours (volcanic Habash, Sabah and pale Sada).Mud walls within the gardens are constructed to the Zabur method of Sanaa utilising teams of local craftsmen. Mud is recycled from collapsed houses and built in layers compacted by hand.Slots within the walls reveal glimpses of the mountainous landscape beyond and frame views back toward the building.
The planting is zone-based with plants requiring more water closer to the building and drought tolerant species around the perimeter.
The project's planting is sourced entirely from locally collected seeds and cuttings that were grown on in an onsite nursery.
The enclosed gardens contain flowering hedging, groves of fruit trees, tall and graceful Cypress trees and fragrant climbing plants which adorn the mud walls.
The outer gardens include an events lawn, orchards of peach, almond and apricot trees and an Olive grove.
The design includes a sustainable system for water recycling, whereby grey water and stored rain water are used in the building and in the landscape for irrigation.
The secret garden includes a water feature hewn in local stone.