Sharjah Art Foundation Completes Renovation of Iconic Brutalist Building, ‘The Flying Saucer’

Sharjah Art Foundation
SpaceContinuum Design Studio
2020

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

Sitting at the intersection of several residential areas near the center of the city, The Flying Saucer has long been inscribed in the collective cultural memory and place identity of Sharjah residents.

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

The renovation resorted the building’s original silhouette and added new spaces for Installations, Public programs and Community Gatherings.

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

The futuristic, brutalist landmark was constructed in the mid-1970s in the heart of downtown Sharjah and was acquired by the Foundation in 2012

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

Led by SAF and SpaceContinuum Design Studio, the design restored the original character of the building and introduced new outdoor public space and lower-level community space with a café, library, sunken courtyard, and activity spaces.

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

Visitors will be able to enjoy The building’s architecture, which draws from a combination of space-age and Brutalist influences that permeated the period.

Notable elements of its design include a wide circular dome floating above a ring of eight columns, a star-shaped canopy projecting beyond a fully glazed panoramic façade, and light and open interior space supported by angled V-shaped pillars.

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

Initially conceived as a French-inspired store combining a restaurant, newsstand, tobacconist, gift shop, patisserie, and delicatessen, The building has undergone a series of functional and design transformations over the past several decades. 

The Flying Saucer will house the first public art library in Sharjah. Open for all, it includes the Foundation publications, artist books, and catalogs as well as reference materials that target curious readers of all ages, researchers, and art history enthusiasts.

Photo: Danko Stjepanovic. Image courtesy SAF

This new transformation aims to re-integrate The Flying Saucer within the daily lives of Sharjah residents.

This project continues Sharjah Art Foundation’s work to preserve the rich heritage and history of the emirate’s built environment in order to create spaces for the presentation of contemporary art as well as to meet the needs of the local community.


About the Designers:

Sharjah Art Foundation:

an advocate, catalyst, and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves, and celebrates the distinct culture of the region, and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators, and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of traveling exhibitions and scholarly publications.

SpaceContinuum Design Studio:

a UAE-based architecture design consultancy founded in 2014 by architect Mona El Mousfy. With interdisciplinary collaboration at its core, the research-based architecture practice explores the relation between space, shared social practices, and socio-cultural conditions. The practice conceives a project as a layering of space continuums across scales and the ensuing development of cultural meaning. SpaceContinnum is presently engaged in various projects for Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Architecture Triennial.

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