Sharjah's weird and wonderful 'Flying Saucer' to reopen after two-year renovation

Acquired by Sharjah Art Foundation in 2012, the architectural landmark will now be used as an art and event space

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The Flying Saucer, an architectural quirk in Sharjah’s downtown urbanscape, will reopen to the public on Saturday, September 26, after a major renovation.

The project began in 2018, led by Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), which acquired the building in 2012. Parts of the structure have been restored, and new elements have been introduced. The Flying Saucer will now serve as an art and events space.

The landmark Brutalist building, featuring a circular structure and a dome, was inaugurated in 1978. Over the decades, it has taken on different uses, starting as a one-stop-shop with a cafe, restaurant, newsstand and gift shop, before becoming a grocery store and fast food restaurant.

As its functions changed, so did its architecture, with an annex, inner partitions and a false ceiling that obstructed the view of its dome from the inside, all being added.

As part of these recent renovations, managed by SAF and SpaceContinuum Design Studio, led by founder Mona El Mousfy, the annex was removed and the building restored to its original silhouette.

The renovation has also introduced new elements, such as an outdoor public space called Platform, designed for social events, performances and outdoor art installations. Another addition is the Launch Pad, an underground community space featuring a cafe, library, sunken courtyard filled with vegetation and activity spaces. The Launch Pad area will host film screenings, workshops, performances and readings for the public.

“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.”

The reopening later this month will be marked by a new multimedia installation Nowhere Less Now 3 [flying saucer] by Lindsay Seers and Keith Sargent. Drawing inspiration from the building's architecture, the work weaves a story about an alien landing on Earth and its efforts to understand human patterns through geometry and gestures.

SAF is also working on self-guided audio tours of the site that explain the Flying Saucer's history.

Over the years, SAF has undertaken architectural projects intended to renovate and reuse old buildings, turning them into art and community spaces. This includes its Al Hamriyah Studios, an artist workshop and exhibition space built on the site for a former souq in 2017, and Al Mureijah Art Spaces, contemporary art galleries located within a historical area in Sharjah, completed in 2013.

Al Hamriyah Studios. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation
Al Hamriyah Studios. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation