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|Client:||Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA)|
|Awards:||Architecture MasterPrize: Cultural Architecture Award;|
FX Award: Global Project;
Architizer A+ Award;
WAF: Culture Award, Highly Commended;
Civic Trust Award: Highly Commended
The Buhais Geological Park, just 50km from Sharjah is set in a beautiful barren landscape, and surrounded by a rocky mountain range known as the Jebel Buhais. Once a rich sea bed, this is an area of exceptional geological significance, full of fossils, corals and prehistoric burial sites which speak to its ancient history and which this visitor centre celebrates and exhibits. The site features an abundance of marine fossils from over 65 million years ago, spectacular mountain ranges and ancient burial sites from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages.
The project, comprises five interlinked pods, which house exhibition areas, an immersive theatre, a café offering panoramic views of the dramatic Jebel Buhais ridge rising some 100 metres above, a gift shop and other visitor facilities. The geometry of the pods was inspired by the fossilised urchins present on site. To minimise disruption to this fragile landscape, the pods were designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures which touch the ground lightly on in-situ reinforced concrete foundation discs. The pods are clad in steel panels which reflect the hues of the surrounding landscape and are fixed into an array of steel ribs, giving them their distinctive sculptural, cantilevered forms.
The restrained palette of the interior materials complements the pods’ exposed pre-cast concrete shell segments. In some pods, glazing and oculi have been inserted to control natural light into the space, tempering the brightness of the desert sun. Linking the pods and looping around the site is an outdoor trail designed to encourage exploration and incorporating viewing areas, a classroom shaded by a high-tensile canopy and raised walkways across natural rock formations and ancient burial grounds.
The Geology Park is the latest addition to a suite of learning centres operated by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority who lead conservation efforts in the Emirate, manage protected areas and provide exceptional educational experiences.
Judge’s comments, FX Design Awards 2020
Juan Roldan Associate Professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design, American University of Sharjah, UAE