Sharjah: There’s 10 days to go before one of Sharjah’s most iconic structures, aptly named due to its resemblance to a flying saucer, reopens to the public on September 26.
The Flying Saucer, which was under a two-year-renovation by the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), continues to reflecting its original silhouette of the 1970s. Meanwhile, the architectural landmark features new exterior spaces, as well as community gathering spaces that include a multi-activity café around a sunken courtyard with a library and multiple screening walls.
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“The Flying Saucer has been beloved by generations of Sharjah residents since its opening in the late 1970s. It was important that we not only preserve its characteristic structure, but also restore it for our community as a space for convening, learning and creating,” Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, director of SAF, said in a statement.
“While preserving the original building’s distinctive qualities, the project also adds a new layer of vibrancy to the space and allows us to better engage with communities across the emirate — an ethos that guides all of the foundation’s architectural and historic preservation work,” she said.
The star-shaped structure, acquired by the Foundation in 2012 and used as an exhibition venue since 2015, has gone through a series of modifications since its opening in 1978 to house various businesses such as a café and restaurant, newsstand, gift shop, supermarket and pharmacy.
The Flying Saucer has long been part of the collective cultural memory and identity of Sharjah. Its architecture draws on the space-age influence of 1960s and 1970s western literature and popular culture, and Brutalist architecture of the same period.
Notable elements of its design include a wide circular dome that seems to hover above a ring of eight columns, a star-shaped canopy projecting beyond a fully glazed panoramic façade and a bright and open interior space supported by angled V-shaped pillars.
The renovation project, which began in 2018, continues the work started by the Foundation in 2015 to restore the building to its original silhouette. This intervention also includes two new additions designed to complement the building spatially and programmatically and support its function as a community hub and resource.
The first addition is the Platform, an open, outdoor public space designed to act as an extension of The Flying Saucer, that will host social events, performances and outdoor art installations.
The second major addition to the building is the underground Launch Pad, a community space that will house:
- The Green Crater, a sunken circular courtyard filled with lush vegetation and natural light.
- A multi-activity café overlooking the Green Crater.
- An extensive curated library.
- Various programmes including film screenings, workshops, performances and readings to be held in the open café or library spaces, or in one of several enclosed ‘pods,’ including the ‘Meeting Pod’ designed for smaller gatherings; the larger, multipurpose ‘Activation Pod’ and a ‘Craft Pod’ equipped for art workshops and hands-on activities.