The Buhais Geology Park Interpretive Centre lies south-east of the city of Sharjah UAE in a region of exceptional prehistoric and geological significance. 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.
Seeking to create a series of exhibition spaces which vividly present the region’s significant geological phenomena – including deep earth structures, plate tectonics, geomorphology and sedimentation – UK based Hopkins Architects has designed five interconnected pods of varying sizes. These accommodate 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 and developed into a typology which could be sized to suit the Centre’s different functions. To minimise disruption to the existing fauna, geology and terrain, the pods were designed as prefabricated concrete structures and only lightly touch the ground on in-situ reinforced concrete foundation discs.
The pods are clad in steel panels, coloured to reference the different hues of the surrounding landscape as well as to shade the precast concrete structures. These panels are fixed into an array of steel ribs, giving the pods their distinctive sculptural, cantilevered forms and further referencing the exoskeleton of the urchin fossils.