Sultanate to get world’s largest botanical garden

Oman will soon be home to the world’s largest botanical garden.

Located 35 kilometres from the capital, Muscat, the Oman Botanic Garden will cover more than 1,000 acres and will feature eight of the varied habitats found in the country, with all of the plants and animals featured in the gardens sourced locally. The garden will showcase the wide variety in Oman’s biodiversity.

Three companies have been drafted in to build the Oman Botanic Garden, in collaboration with the Diwan of Royal Court, which has spearheaded this initiative. British architecture and design firms Arup, Grimshaw and Haley Sharpe Design (HSD) jointly delivered the engineering, landscaping, architecture and interpretive designs of the garden.

Located in the foothills of Oman’s famed Hajar Mountains, the site was chosen because of its natural rock formations, ridges and ravines. It is also one of the few unspoiled locations in the world, where people can see the ancient sea bed, before tectonic activity raised it 100 metres above the sea level. Eight different habitats have been set up inside the garden, with two biomes set up for the more sensitive environments.

A curved structure, designed to let in plenty of light, houses the northern biome, which features the flora and fauna of the northern mountains of Oman, while a circular dome features the southern biome and contains the unique biodiversity found in the Dhofar region. A regulated atmosphere within these biomes mimics the environment found in these regions.

Astonishing project

“The Oman Botanic Garden is an astonishing project with many layers of interwoven cultural and environmental significance,” said Keith Brewis, partner in Grimshaw. “Its scale and diversity is truly world-leading, and we are honoured to work as the architects for a project that has the conservation of bio-diversity as its core design driver.”

The three architecture firms specialise in designing buildings that coexist with the environment, and in keeping with this, have ensured that the buildings are sustainable and designed to meet the highest global standard of sustainability, LEED Platinum. In addition to these, with water being a scarce resource in this region, the water used for irrigation and aesthetic features are sourced locally and recycled to ensure not a drop is wasted.

“At Arup, we have enjoyed the many unique challenges presented by the Oman Botanic Garden, from designing natural and authentic landscapes to recreating the cool mists of the Khareef,” affirmed Ed Clarke, associate director of Arup.

“More than 700 of our multi-disciplinary engineers and specialist designers were engaged to explore and find solutions that would befit such an ambitious and creative project. The Oman Botanic Garden must surely be one of the most marvellous projects in the world.”

With Oman looking to diversify its economy through the Tanfeedh plan for economic diversification, tourism has been earmarked as one of the areas for expansion, and this garden can be enjoyed by residents and tourists for generations to come. The project is due to start on site soon.

Cultural heritage

Alisdair Hinshelwood, director and designer for HSD, added: “The Oman Botanic Garden project set itself and the entire design team unique technical and cultural objectives, and aspirations. HSD has relished working on a project where the botanical, landscape and cultural heritage of Oman is being expressed through the detailed scientific research, technical design and sheer creative enthusiasm of the entire team, client and design alike.”

All of the materials used in the construction of the Oman Botanic Garden are environmentally sustainable, and are designed to create an open and spacious environment for people to enjoy, besides allowing plenty of light to enter the indoor areas of the garden.