Sea Urchins under the Desert Sky

What do we see? Is it real? Or is it rather a movie set? Maybe a scene from Star Wars? Or is it just a futuristic, architectural Fata Morgana, one that architects would see if they were lost and dehydrated in the desert? Neither. It is The Buhais Geology Park Interpretive Centre, which lies approximately 50 kilometres south-east of the city of Sharjah, UAE – a region of prehistoric and geological significance.

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The Buhais Geology Park Interpretive Centre, which lies approximately 50 kilometres south-east of the city of Sharjah, UAE – a region of prehistoric and geological significance. Seeking to create a series of exhibition spaces which present the region’s geological phenomena Hopkins Architects have designed five interconnected pods of varying sizes. (Photo: Marc Goodwin)

The site features an abundance of marine fossils from over 65 million years ago, mountain ranges and ancient burial sites from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Seeking to create a series of exhibition spaces which present the region’s geological phenomena Hopkins Architects have designed five interconnected pods of varying sizes. The geometry of the pods was inspired by the fossilised sea urchins present on site. To minimise disruption to the existing fauna, geology and terrain, the pods were designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures and only gently 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. So, what do we finally see? A new, striking architectural milestone in the UAE, albeit not free from excess.

Find this article and many more in the new issue of topos on water.