The wildlife at Kalba Mangrove Reserve ranges from migratory seabirds and endangered turtles to stingrays and gazelles, though all of them are feeling substantially more protected thanks to the new Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Recently completed in 2021, the sanctuary was commissioned by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority and brought to life by Hopkins Architects. It will be dedicated to rehabilitating and nursing endangered wildlife from the area. The site will also provide educational opportunities and environmental awareness to its visitors and will allow scientists to conduct important research and monitor Kalba Conservation Reserve’s natural resources.
The project features seven interconnected modular pods inspired by sea urchin exoskeletons and the connected Buhais Geology Museum. The pods will make up the visitor center, complete with a terrace and panoramic views of the neighboring mangrove forests and mountains. In addition, the facilities include an aquarium, exhibition areas, visitor amenities, staff offices, veterinary offices, classrooms, a gift shop and a café. A nature trail gives visitors the opportunity to explore the reserve’s unique biodiversity.
“Designing for a site like this is an incredible opportunity,” said Simon Fraser, principal of Hopkins Architects. “The pioneering circular forms we designed for the Buhais Geological Museum, are also perfect for this rich ecological location as they touch the ground lightly. We have adapted them using soft scalloped precast cladding made from discarded shells found in the local area which responds to the marine environment and which softens the external appearance of the project to harmonise with its surroundings.” The pods were designed as prefab concrete structures with simple, elevated foundations in order to minimize disruption to the terrain.
White scalloped concrete segments clad the pods to reference the shells found on the local shorelines while creating variations of both light and texture. Steel ribs help the buildings withstand the region’s harsh coastal conditions. Inside, the ribbed pods allow for ample natural light while colors like white and light blue paired with natural wood complement the seaside tones. To further protect the structures, there is a waterproof membrane and insulation lining the cladding cavity and the pods’ surfaces.
Images via Hopkins Architects