Situated 48 kilometres south-east of Sharjah city in U.A.E, the Buhais Geology Park lies in a district of significant prehistoric and geological ventures. The park features numerous marine fossils dating back to more than 65 million years. Eye-catching mountain ranges can be seen along with ancient burial sites that have existed since the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages, respectively.
Structure And Design Of The Park
Hopkins Architects have designed five interlinked pods of numerous sizes to accommodate exhibition areas to represent the area’s significant geological phenomena. Additionally, a theatre providing an immersive experience to its viewers, a café, a gift shop and other visitor facilities were also built.
The pods are covered in rigid copper-coloured steel panels to signify the surrounding landscape’s different hues. The varieties of coloured steel panels also provide abundant shade to the existing precast concrete structures. The panels are fastened into a formation of steel ribs, giving the pods their distinctive sculptural, cantilevered forms. This consequently further reinforces the exoskeleton of the urchin fossils.
The controlled palette of the interior materials complements the pods’ exposed precast concrete shell components. Glazing oculi have been intricately positioned to control natural light into the space of individual pods. It aims to temper the brightness levels of the desert sun entering the area.
The geometry of the pods was inspired by fossilized urchins present on the site. They were later developed into a typology that can be resized to suit different functions of the center. The pods were designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures to significantly decrease disruption towards the existing fauna, geology and terrain. They only touch the ground lightly on in-situ reinforced concrete foundation discs.
An outdoor trail accessed from the main exhibition area connects the pods and circles sinuously around the site. This trail is specifically designed to encourage visitors to explore the jebel (Arabic for mountain). The jebel incorporates viewing areas, a classroom enveloped by a high-tensile canopy and elevated walkways across natural rock formations and burial grounds dating back to ancient times.
The Buhais Geology Park is the latest addition to a suite of learning centres. It’s managed by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority, who lead conservation efforts in the Emirate and supervise protected areas, providing state of the art educational experiences.