The Flying Saucer, Sharjah-1654159535055
Sharjah’s famous architectural landmark, ‘The Flying Saucer’, has been shortlisted for Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022. Image Credit: Sharjah Art Foundation

Dubai: Sharjah’s famous architectural landmark, ‘The Flying Saucer’, building constructed in the mid-1970s has been shortlisted for Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022.

‘The Flying Saucer’ — acquired and renovated by Sharjah Art Foundation; and reopened to the public in September 2020 — joins 19 other shortlisted projects that were selected by an independent master jury from a pool of 463 projects nominated for the 15th Award Cycle (2020-2022), organisers have announced on Thursday.

The projects will compete for a share of the US$1 million prize, one of the largest in architecture. A total of 20 projects have been selected in 16 countries, including, among others the UAE, Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Indonesia, Kuwait, and Turkey.

To coincide with the London Architecture Festival, there will be an exhibition on the shortlisted projects at Aga Khan Centre, Kings Cross, London for the entire month of June. The exhibition will also be held in other cities around the world, in the lead up to the Award ceremony.

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The ‘new’ Flying Saucer

Renovated by Sharjah Art Foundation in 2018, the new Flying Saucer was reopened to the public on September 26, 2020.

The star-shaped structure, acquired by Sharjah Art Foundation in 2012, 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, was led by the Foundation and SpaceContinuum Design Studio, and helmed by Studio founder Mona El Mousfy.

Reflecting its original silhouette of the 1970s, the architectural landmark now features new exterior spaces, as well as community gathering spaces which include a multi-activity cafe around a sunken courtyard with a library and multiple screening walls.

“The Flying Saucer, a 1978 Brutalist-style building that was fully restored as a community art space, contributes to Sharjah’s collective cultural memory,” noted Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

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From left to right: Blimbingsari Airport, Flying Saucer Rehabilitation, Outros Bairros Rehabilitation Programme, Le Jardin d'Afrique.

About the award

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.

Since it was launched 45 years ago, 122 projects have received the award and nearly 10,000 building projects have been documented. The AKAA’s selection process emphasises architecture that not only provides for people’s physical, social and economic needs, but that also stimulates and responds to their cultural aspirations.

The other shortlisted projects for the 15th Award Cycle include:

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From left to right: Niamey 2000, Rehabilitation of the Manama Post Office, Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response, Issy Valley Improvement.

Rehabilitation of Manama Post Office, Manama, Bahrain, by Studio Anne Holtrop:

Built in 1937, the Post Office was rehabilitated to its original form and role as a functioning post office, and added a new wing to the existing building.

Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response, Teknaf, Bangladesh, by Rizvi Hassan, Khwaja Fatmi, Saad Ben Mostafa: Sustainably built structures in the world’s largest refugee camps, which occurred collaboratively in the field without drawings or models.

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From left to right: Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre, Urban River Spaces, Wafra Wind Tower, Jadgal Elementary School.

Urban River Spaces, Jhenaidah, Bangladesh, by Co. Creation. Architects / Khondaker Hasibul Kabir:

A community-driven project providing public spaces in a riverine city with 250,000 residents, offering walkways, gardens and cultural facilities, as well as environmental efforts to increase biodiversity along the river.

Outros Bairros Rehabilitation Programme, Mindelo, Cape Verde, by OUTROS BAIRROS / Nuno Flores: An urban rehabilitation and redesign of a public space allowed residents to execute works in their own neighbourhoods and enhance their sense of belonging.

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From left to right: Aban House, Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University, Rehabilitation of Tarsus Old Ginnery, Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House.

Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University, in Ahmedabad, India, by RMA architects / Rahul Mehrotra:

The library, a living case study of passive climate mitigation strategies, integrates seamlessly into the existing campus while forging its own distinct identity. Indonesia

Blimbingsari Airport, Banyuwangi, Indonesia, by andramatin: Serving more than 1,100 domestic passengers per day, the airport’s roofs indicate a clear division between departure and arrival halls.

Expandable House, Batam, Indonesia, by ETH Zurich / Stephen Cairns with Miya Irawati, Azwan Aziz, Dioguna Putra and Sumiadi Rahman:

This new sustainable dwelling prototype is designed to be flexibly configured around its residents’ (often) precarious resources over time.

Aban House, Isfahan, Iran, by USE Studio / Mohammad Arab, Mina Moeineddini:

On a narrow rectangular site in Isfahan’s historic centre, the three-storey house is arranged around three open courtyards.

Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre, Tehran, Iran, by ASA North / Ahmadreza Schricker:

Distinct materials differentiate new additions from the brick-built historic fabric in this contemporary art museum housed in an abandoned 100-year-old brewery.

Jadgal Elementary School, Seyyed Bar, Iran, by DAAZ Office / Arash Aliabadi:

An elementary school, managed by villagers and teachers and funded by tourism and needlework from local women, is a sustainable development centre for surrounding areas.

Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House, Tripoli, Lebanon, by East Architecture Studio / Nicolas Fayad, Charles Kettaneh:

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer but abandoned when civil war erupted in 1975, the guesthouse has been transformed into a design platform and production facility for the local wood industry.

Wafra Wind Tower, Kuwait City, Kuwait, by AGi Architects / Joaquín Pérez-Goicoechea, Nasser B. Abulhasan:

The 13-storey building conceived as a wind tower features a central, vertical courtyard that provides natural ventilation to each apartment unit.

Issy Valley Improvement, Ait Mansour, Morocco, by Salima Naji: While improving the palm orchards and water reservoirs, trails and facilities for tourists were also upgraded in the first phase of a larger project for the valley.

Niamey 2000, Niamey, Niger, by united4design / Mariam Kamara, Yasaman Esmaili, Elizabeth Golden, Philip Straeter:

As a response to a housing shortage amid rapid urban expansion, this prototype housing of six family units seeks to increase density while remaining culturally appropriate.

Tulkarm Courthouse, Tulkarm, Palestine, by AAU Anastas:

Featuring two buildings, one for administration and the other containing 10 courtrooms, the Courthouse is anchored to its urban context by a public space.

CEM Kamanar Secondary School, Thionck Essyl, Senegal, by Dawoffice:

For this secondary school, volunteers, using local techniques, produced vault modules from clay which (with lattices) act as evaporating coolers.

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From left to right: Lanka Learning Centre, Tulkarm Courthouse, Expandable House, CEM Kamanar Secondary School.

Lanka Learning Centre, Parangiyamadu, Sri Lanka, by feat.collective / Noemi Thiele, Felix Lupatsch, Valentin Ott and Felix Yaparsidi:

A multifunctional cultural centre and adult school where locals learn craftsmanship creates a multi-ethnic meeting point.

Le Jardin d’Afrique, Zarzis, Tunisia, by Rachid Koraïchi:

An ecumenical cemetery provides a sanctuary and dignified place of final repose for the hundreds of unburied bodies that had been washing ashore.

Rehabilitation of Tarsus Old Ginnery, Tarsus, Turkey, by Sayka Construction Architecture Engineering Consultancy:

Adaptive re-use of an abandoned 19th century ginnery allows the operation of a contemporary centre for archaeological research and public engagement.