Hopkins Architects' The Buhais Geology Park lies approximately 48km south-east of Sharjah cityin 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, Hopkins Architects has designed five interconnected pods of varying sizes to accommodate exhibition areas, an immersive theatre, a café, a gift shop and other visitor facilities.
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.
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 pre-fabricated 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.
Linking the pods and looping sinuously around the site is an outdoor trail accessed from the main exhibition area.
This trail – designed to encourage visitors to explore the jebel (Arabic for mountain) – incorporates 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.