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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