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10 Jun 2008
The Oman Botanic Garden will become arguably the most ecologically important oasis on the Arabian Peninsula, and is expected to be a huge attraction for tourists and the conservation community. While temperatures outside will reach 45ºC, inside native plants will flourish in microclimates replicating Oman’s most mountainous and dry regions. The 425-hectare site near Muscat will be a conservational living library of unique flora. Atkins developed the masterplan, taking a multidisciplinary approach, with teams from landscape architecture, ecology, and heritage all working hand in hand.
Oman has over 1,200 species of plants, of which 76 are unique to the Sultanate. In the past, plants, notably frankincense, have played a major role in the country’s economy. Dr Robert Whitcombe, of Atkins’ ecological team, has unique experience of the habitats of Oman and found a new species while working in Dhofar, named Aloe whitcombei.
Built elements of the Oman Botanical Reserve design include a visitor orientation area, research centre, several large conservatories and an Oasis Village Hotel.
Atkins’ architects and building services engineers had to recreate habitats as extreme as those found in the 2,000m fog-capped mountains of Dhofar, in the south, with their unique “Khareef” cloud climate, to the dry hot gravel deserts of the interior. This meant designing a number of huge glass enclosures totalling over 2.5 hectares in area, within which the habitats and climates could be replicated, using data gathered during field trips by Atkins’ ecologists and landscape architects, supported by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and local Omani experts.
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