Situated on one of the most sensitive and biodiverse nature reserves in the Gulf, the Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary comprises a cluster of rounded building forms that creates a sanctuary for rehabilitating turtles and nurturing endangered birds, connecting with local initiatives and expertise.

Commissioned by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), the complex will also provide education and visitor facilities to increase environmental awareness and engagement with conservation programmes. It will serve as an operational base for research and monitoring of the protected Kalba reserve’s natural resources, as well as those of the wider east coast area of the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Seven interconnected pods create a visitor centre, with a terrace and panoramic views towards the mangrove forests and distant mountains. A carefully set out nature trail encourages visitors to explore the reserve’s rich biodiversity of indigenous mangrove forests and mud flats and the species it supports including turtles, stingrays, gazelles and the rare Arabian Collard Kingfisher.

The geometry of the pods is inspired by urchin exoskeletons and purposefully echoes those of the Buhais Geology Museum, with which the Sanctuary is paired. The pods have been designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures to minimise disruption to the existing terrain, with concrete foundations which are simple robust discs, elevated to protect them on this tidal location.

The pods are clad with segments of white scalloped pre-cast concrete referencing the shells found on the local shoreline and creating subtle variations of light and texture. An array of steel ribs accentuates the sculptural cantilevered forms and completes this robust cladding system, itself designed to withstand the site’s unforgiving coastal conditions.


  • Location Kalba, Sharjah, UAE
  • Client Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA)
  • Year 2021

Selected Awards

  • Architecture MasterPrize: Cultural Architecture
  • Identity Design Architecture Award: Cultural Building (Highly Commended)