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|Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA)
|Architecture MasterPrize: Cultural Architecture
Identity Design Architecture Award: Cultural Building (Highly Commended)
Commissioned by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), the Kalba Mangrove Reserve is situated on one of the most sensitive and biodiverse areas in the Gulf, and serves as an operational base for the research and the monitoring of protected natural resources.
Education and visitor facilities are designed to increase environmental awareness and support engagement with conservation programmes. 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.
Seven interconnected pods and tensile structures form the centre, comprising aquaria, exhibition areas, offices, veterinary facilities and classrooms, along with a visitor centre, café. and terrace offering panoramic views towards the mangrove forests and distant mountains.
The pod geometry is inspired by urchin exoskeletons and echoes those of the Jebel Buhais Geology Museum with which the Sanctuary is paired. Designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures to minimise disruption to the existing terrain, the pods feature concrete foundations – simple, robust discs elevated to protect them on this tidal location. 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, these modular buildings invite the landscape into the spaces, with framed views of the surrounding landscape. Steel ribs accentuate the sculptural forms and contribute to a robust cladding system designed to withstand the site’s unforgiving coastal conditions
Passive design principles were prioritised throughout construction, to protect the interior spaces from the desert heat and lower the overall operational energy required. The pods‘ precast concrete shells, ribs and in- situ foundation discs provide a well-sealed, exposed thermal mass across their floors, walls and roofs. A waterproof membrane and insulation running within the cladding cavity, is continuous across the surface of the pods.
Peter Jackson, Client’s representative