Visitors attended an exclusive guided design tour of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Flying Saucer with the key designers of the project.

The Emirates Architecture Open, organized by the ThreeFlaneurs, showcased outstanding contemporary architectural projects built by local design firms in the UAE. Participants had the opportunity to attend an exclusive guided architecture tour of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Flying Saucer along with the key designers themselves. The renovation and restoration project was led by Sharjah Art Foundation and SpaceContinuum Design Studio, helmed by SpaceContinuum Founder Mona El Mousfy.

The Flying Saucer is Sharjah’s iconic Brutalist structure that has been a part of the emirate’s collective cultural memory since the mid-1970s. Recently renovated by Sharjah Art Foundation, the architectural landmark now features new outdoor spaces and a lower-level community area with a multi-activity café, a sunken courtyard, a library and activity spaces.

The renovation project, which began in 2018, continues the work started by the Foundation in 2015 to restore the building to its original silhouette. Modified over the decades to house various businesses, such as a café and restaurant, newsstand, gift shop, supermarket and pharmacy, its architecture draws on the space-age influence of 1960s and 1970s western literature and popular culture as well as Brutalist architecture of the same period.

In this first phase of renovation the structure was stripped back to its core form by removing the grey aluminum cladding on its pillars, and the orange aluminum cladding on its canopy and taking down all false ceilings and interior partitions. The second phase focused on adding contemporary spaces and elements.

Two new additions are an exterior Platform, an open public space designed to host social events, performances and outdoor art installations; and the underground Launch Pad, a community space that houses a café with a library and screening walls that overlook ‘The Green Crater’, and other activity rooms ‘The Pods’. The space will hold multiple programmes and activities including film screenings, workshops and readings.

The project continues the Foundation’s mission and commitment to preserve the rich heritage and history of the emirate’s built environment by creating spaces that serve the local community.

About Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art. Through the Sharjah Biennial, the annual March Meeting, year-round exhibitions, film and music programmes, education and community outreach programmes, grants, residencies, commissions and publications, the foundation encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art.

About SpaceContinuum Design Studio

SpaceContinuum Design Studio is a UAE-based architecture design consultancy founded in 2014 by architect Mona El Mousfy. With interdisciplinary collaboration at its core, the research-based architectural practice explores the relation between space, shared social practices, and socio-cultural conditions.

Image Credits

1. The Flying Saucer, Sharjah, UAE, 2020. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
2. The Flying Saucer, Sharjah, UAE, 2020. Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
3. The Flying Saucer, Sharjah, UAE, 2020. Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
4. The Flying Saucer, Sharjah, UAE, 2020. Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation