Comprising a series of urchin-inspired pods, the project provides a base for wildlife protection and educational initiatives within a coastal nature reserve
Outside the city of Kalba in the eastern United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hopkins Architects has completed a turtle and wildlife sanctuary for rehabilitating turtles and nurturing endangered birds. Located within the Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve – on the Gulf of Oman coast near the UAE’s border with Oman – the Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary comprises a cluster of striking rounded tent-like building forms.
As well as forming a wildlife sanctuary, the complex also provides education and visitor facilities to increase awareness of and engagement with environmental issues and conservation programmes.
Seven interconnected pods and tensile structures create a visitor centre, with a terrace looking out over the surrounding mangrove forests and distant mountains. Facilities include aquaria, exhibition areas, visitor amenities, staff offices, veterinary facilities, classrooms and a cafe. A nature trail invites visitors to explore the reserve’s biodiverse ecosystem of indigenous mangrove forests and mud flats and the species it supports including turtles, stingrays and gazelles.
The pods of the Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary have been designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures to minimise disruption to the existing terrain. The geometry of the pods is inspired by urchin exoskeletons and purposefully echoes those of the Buhais Geology Park museum, another environmental education-focused project from Hopkins Architects, located roughly 85km inland. The pods are also clad with segments of white scalloped pre-cast concrete between steel ribs, referencing the shells found on the local shoreline.
Passive design principles were prioritised throughout construction, to protect the interior spaces from the desert heat and lower the overall operational energy required.
Photography by Marc Goodwin/Archmospheres
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