The British Embassy in Yemen is one of the first embassies to be built following the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's review of security across its overseas network and it succeeds in combining the contradictory modern imperatives of defence and public accessibility.
The embassy is surrounded by the vibrant and architecturally distinctive heart of Sana’a – by mosques and houses of mud and stone decorated with gypsum, alabaster and coloured glass. The site is roughly divided into quadrants to evoke the traditional Moorish/Islamic paradise garden with the embassy building as its central pavilion. The body of the building is a board-marked concrete box bedded into the sloping site. This box is eroded at the north-west corner to create a welcoming consular/visa entrance, visible to the public where the outer wall gives way to railings. The harsh solidity of the concrete is tempered by a weathering-steel brise-soleil and the extensive use of traditional landscape elements like volcanic habash stone and zabur mud walls.
The climate in Sana’a offered an opportunity to create a sustainable building. A low-tech ground cooling system of labyrinthine clay pipes takes advantage of the substantial temperature differences between day and night. The brise soleil cools the building further and exposes the interior concrete structure to exploit its thermal mass. Rain and grey water are collected to irrigate the gardens, fast becoming among the most beautiful in Sana’a.