The Museum lies 30 miles south-east of the city of Sharjah in a region of exceptional geological significance, featuring 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 geological phenomena, Hopkins Architects designed five interconnected pods of varying sizes. The geometry of the pods - inspired by the fossilised urchins present on site - developed into a typology which could be sized to suit the Centre’s different functions, accommodating exhibition areas, an immersive theatre, a café offering panoramic views of the landscape, a gift shop and other visitor facilities.
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 concrete foundation discs.
The pods are clad in steel panels, coloured to reference the different hues of the surrounding landscape. These panels are fixed into steel ribs, giving the pods their distinctive sculptural forms and referencing the exoskeleton of the urchin fossils.
Visitors enter along a ramp to the central hub where they are greeted and guided through the Centre. The restrained palette of the interior materials complements the pods’ exposed pre-cast concrete shell.
Linking the pods and looping sinuously around the site is an outdoor trail designed to encourage visitors to explore the jebel. It incorporates viewing areas, a shaded classroom and raised walkways.