British architectural firm Hopkins Architects has completed the Buhais Geology Park Interpretative Centre, a new research and education facility highlighting the “prehistoric and geological significance” of the former seabed known as al-Madam Plain. Located southeast of the UAE city of Sharjah, the Geology Park was created as part of a series of learning and conservation centers operated by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority. The design of the site-sensitive complex comprises five interconnected pods inspired by prehistoric sea urchin fossils.
The Buhais Geology Park Interpretative Center is located within the Jebel Buhais, an archaeological site that’s most notable for its extensive necropolis spanning the Stone, Bronze, Iron, and Hellenistic ages, as well as for its abundance of marine fossils from over 65 million years ago. To highlight the archeological importance of Jebel Buhais, the Park was conceived as an important educational resource and destination for tourism.
Taking cues from the region’s well-preserved prehistoric fossils, the architects crafted the Interpretive Center into five interconnected pods that house a series of exhibition spaces with model-based interactive displays as well as an immersive theater, a cafe with panoramic views of the dramatic Jebel Buhais range, a gift shop, and other visitor facilities. An outdoor trail accessible from the main exhibition area links the pods and includes viewing areas of the mountains, a classroom shaded by a high-tensile canopy, and raised walkways across select geological sites of note such as ancient burial grounds.
“Our first sight of Jebel Buhais was in the late afternoon sun, exploring the area after the midday heat,” Simon Fraser, Principal at Hopkins Architects, said. “It is an amazingly beautiful, barren setting, with the Jebel providing a powerful backdrop. We have ensured that our design touches lightly on this fragile landscape, so rich in remarkable fossils and prehistoric burial sites. This exciting new facility will allow thousands of people from all over the world to understand the way in which landscapes are formed by tectonic activities and how the Earth has changed over time.”
Images © Marc Goodwin