Sharjah’s Flying Saucer, a quirky, distinctive building that opened in 1978, has been recognised for its architectural design.
The structure has been selected as the 2021 Architectural Digest Design Award for Best Cultural Project.
The Flying Saucer has gone through many phases over the decades, from a cafe to a fast food restaurant. In 2012, Sharjah Art Foundation acquired the building and began renovating it in 2018. Last year, the space reopened as an art and community centre for exhibitions and other presentations.
Notable not only for its space-age look, the building’s design also possesses Brutalist influences and a unique structure with a star-shaped canopy and seven-metre-high dome.
Before being cemented as a local architectural gem, the building was a French patisserie and restaurant, then it became an Al Maya-Lal’s Supermarket and a Sharjah Co-Operative Society branch in 1990s. In the 2000s, Taza Chicken took over the space.
Sharjah Art Foundation collaborated with Mona El Mousfy of SpaceContinuum Design Studio to renovate the space – removing the metal cladding that was added to the canopy by previous owners, allowing the space to have a 360-degree view of the exterior.
The architects have also added an underground community space and annex with skylights that allow the area to be lit from above.
Currently, the Flying Saucer includes a gallery and public art library, as well as a cafe.
The project was shortlisted for the award alongside Forever Is Now in Giza, which transformed the site around the Pyramids into a public art landscape; the M7, a fashion and design museum in Doha; The Green Corner, a cultural space in Bahrain; and Shindagha Historic District on the shores of Dubai Creek, which has been conserved and renovated by X-Architects.