project team: Jeffrey P. Turko, Pavel Hladik, Christina Doumpioti, Defne Sunguroglu Hensel, Michael Hensel, Jordan Whitewood Neal
Our scheme organizes the site as a universally accessible landscape that enfolds the interior space of the visitor center. A defined sequence of iconic architectural, landscape and microclimatic experiences characterize the scheme: the tree grove, the dune (the dry landscape that extends over the building and its continuation to the south into the wetlands), the sails (the transitional space between sun-sails and climate skin of the building), and the cavern (the darker and cool interior of the building).
Upon arrival the visitor is greeted by a shading tree grove on the north-eastern corner of the site. From here it is possible to directly enter the center, or to stroll up the landscapes roof of the building to enjoy the view and possibly to continue further into the wetland, or else to walk along the western elevation of the building, entering from the west.
The scheme extends the experience of the landscape onto and across the site and offers spectacular views of the Al Whatba wetland reserve from an elevated position on top of the building. From the northern and southern approach the building presents itself primarily as a landscape. The eastern and western elevations are marked by iconic colonnades of sun-sails, providing a shaded transitional space for enjoying views and refreshments, and that prevent solar penetration of the interior. The interior, the cavern, presents itself as a heavy protective mass that is shielded from thermal impact by the soil roof, the sun-sails, and by the tree stands. The tree stands on the eastern perimeter of the site serve as assembly area for groups that will venture into the wetland reserve.
In the north-oriented spaces of the building there is the entrance, plant room, kitchen, cafˇ counter, display area and lavatories. Located in the south oriented spaces are the cafˇ seating area, facing south-west and extendable to the transitional space, as well as the training center that is facing south-east. Located in the center of the building are the information center space and the entrances from the west and the east. Through this arrangement and minimum amount of spatial division the use of the building can be flexibly used and adapted to different needs, activities and events.