The British Embassy offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, consist of a series of five, two storey buildings following the stipulations of the onerous brief; simplicity in design, ease of construction and a durable building. Set in its own secure compound, the flat landscape offers indigenous planting with shading afforded by the semi-mature trees.
Centrally placed within the site, the linked two-storey concrete ‘box’ buildings create a series of courtyard spaces providing a pleasant environment for officials and visitors alike. Although the buildings are structurally and environmentally flat roofed, a series of over-sailing mono pitch, freestanding roofs provide solar shading to the buildings on the north elevation due to Harare’s southern hemisphere locality.
Solar shading to the east and west elevations of all buildings is provided by avenues of semi-mature indigenous trees flanking the buildings and reflecting the vistas through the site. Additionally, external louvres are added at high level on the windowless, shorter east and west elevations. The trees not only shade the buildings but have the additional advantage of providing screening to the outer edges of the buildings and therefore giving privacy from the adjacent sites as and when they are built upon.
Externally, all the buildings are fair-faced concrete using shuttering constructed from galvanized sheet. Windows are aluminium framed and the mono pitch sheet steel roofs and louvres are all supported by a series of galvanized steel frames. Galvanized steel offered the best solution for a robust non-maintenance protective coating while also fulfilling crucial brief criteria of the best cost-effective solution. Material choice was an important element within the brief and maintenance would need to be avoided but there was also the need to select a palette that would reflect local materials.
Internally, finishes are simple. The shallow plan form allows for maximum daylight within the offices, all of which can be naturally ventilated using passive chimneys. Internal partitions are either glazed or white-painted stud and plasterboard with sustainable hardwood doors, frames and internal joinery.
External landscaping is predominantly grass with avenues of indigenous trees running in lines north to south, and on either side of the buildings which provide a soft and natural counterpoint to the angular geometry of the buildings. Shading from the trees on the building elevations is dappled rather than flat. The deep shadows under the angled roof planes help to create a sense of cool and calmness whilst a pond in the centre of the site adjacent to the reception block adds another layer of softening.
Architect: The Manser Practice
Image: James Potter