Garden Will Be World’s Largest Ecological Oasis
The world’s largest botanic garden will bloom like an oasis in the desert, its glass structures gleaming in a landscape of sandy ridges on the site of an ancient dried-up seabed. The Oman Botanic Garden is the result of a collaboration between Arup Laboratories, Grimshaw Architects, and Haley Sharpe Design (hsd), and it will feature eight defined habitats reflecting those found within this nation on the Arabian Sea. It will also provide scientists, students, and other botanic gardens around the world with a state-of-the-art research center where they can explore 1,408 species of flora and fauna — a number that will likely continue to grow.
Currently in development, the complex will consist of two enclosed biomes. The Northern Biome reflects the botanic diversity found among Oman’s Northern Mountains, while the Southern Biome will hold the forested habitats of the Dhofar region. These glass structures echo the natural topography of the areas they’re replicating, undulating in waves and connecting to each other and the rest of the gardens via walkways and cable cars.
Visitors feel like they’re meandering through the wadis, mountains, and deserts of Oman in this immersive man-made landscape, experiencing all of the sultanate’s beautiful plant life in a matter of a few hours. Much of this flora is endemic to Oman, meaning you won’t find it anywhere else in the world, and many of the species are also endangered. The 420-hectare (about 1,037 acres) site is one of only a few locations in the world where the ancient seabed is still visible. That’s because tectonic activity has elevated the bed to 100 meters (about 328 feet) above sea level.
The eight defined habitats are arranged at the center of complex alongside a visitor center and educational/research facilities. The layout considers things like passive and active shading, efficient plant irrigation, natural daylight optimization, and a careful study of foot traffic to produce a harmonious and sustainable whole. All of the buildings are being designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the globally-recognized standard for sustainability.
“The Oman Botanic Garden is an astonishing project with many layers of interwoven cultural and environmental significance,” says Keith Brewis, Partner at Grimshaw Architects. “Its scale and diversity is truly world-leading, and we are honored to work as the architects for a project that has the conservation of bio-diversity as a core design driver.”
“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,” says 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 brief. The Oman Botanic Garden must surely be one of the most marvelous projects in the world.”
“The Oman Botanic Garden project set itself and the entire design team unique cultural and technical objectives, and aspirations,” says Alisdair Hinshelwood, Designer and Director at hsd. “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 time, client and design alike.”