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Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary completes in the United Arab Emirates

Education Facilities

Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary completes in the United Arab Emirates

Hopkins Architects designed the project.

By David Malone, Associate Editor | May 3, 2021

Photos courtesy Hopkins Architects

The Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary, located in one of the most sensitive and biodiverse nature reserves in the Gulf, has completed construction.

The sanctuary comprises a cluster of rounded building forms that creates a sanctuary for rehabilitating turtles and nurturing endangered birds. The facility will also provide education and visitor facilities to increase environmental awareness and engagement with conservation programs.


The Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary view towards the mangrove forests and mountains


Seven interconnected pods and tensile structures will create the facility. The geometry of the pods is inspired by urchin exoskeletons. They have been designed as pre-fabricated concrete structures to minimize disruption to the existing terrain. Concrete foundations are simple robust discs that are elevated to protect the structures on the tidal location.

The pods are clad with segments of white scalloped pre-cast concrete that references the shells found on the local shoreline. An array of steel ribs accentuates the sculptural cantilevered forms and completes the robust cladding system.


The Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary exhibition space


The sanctuary features a visitor center with a terrace and views toward the mangrove forests, exhibition areas, visitor amenities, staff offices, veterinary facilities, labs, classrooms, a gift shop, aquaria, and a cafe. A nature trail will encourage visitors to explore the reserve’s biodiversity.


The Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary interior visitor space


Visitors approach a semi-enclosed ribbed pod that serves as an orientation space and features glazed openings oriented toward key views. Passive design principles were prioritized throughout construction to protect the interior spaces from the desert heat and lower the overall operational energy required. The pods’ precast concrete shells, ribs, and in-situ foundation discs provide a well-sealed, exposed thermal mass across their floors, walls, and roofs. A waterproof membrane and insulation running within the cladding cavity is continuous across the pods surface.

In addition to Hopkins Architects, the build team also included Hardco Building Contracting (general contractor), e.Construct (structural engineer), Godwin Austen Johnson (MEP engineer), and Lux Populi (Architectural Lighting).


The Khor Kalba Turtle and Wildlife Sanctuary aerial


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