The Visitor Centre is to be a world class facility for conservation, education and tourism. At the same time as being world class, it should be a part of the site and not imposed on it. The architecture should be organic, exploring arising out of authentic Emirates building traditions, techniques and materials. The Visitor Centre should be a 'Green Building with a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability having a low carbon footprint. It should also be a landmark building signifying the values and aspirations of the people of Sharjah. Finally, the Centre should be commercially self-sustaining catering for local market needs, commercial use of convention centre facilities and the general tourism market through the display houses, exhibitions and edutainment.

Regional Influences

The following are the major regional influences that will shape the design of the Visitor Centre:
The climate in this desert region which is extremely hot & humid for most of the year and can require considerable skill and resources to make living conditions tolerable;
Traditional Middle Eastern planning principles for natural climate conditioning such as high density development with narrow shaded streets aligned to the prevailing wind, the use of wind towers or badgirs which attract cool breezes, evaporative cooling with the use of water in garden design and habitable shade devices such as arcades, porticos, atria and courtyards.

International Influences

Together with the regional influences, the Visitor Centre will be influenced by new developments in Resource Efficient Design. About two thirds of the Centre is fairly conventional accommodation for meetings, exhibitions, offices, laboratories and amenities. These spaces will lend themselves to the application of latest developments in energy management systems such as recycling water and waste, harvesting wind energy, collecting solar heat for water and electricity, new building techniques for insulation, shading and integration of natural ventilation in the building fabric and reducing embodied energy by the use of efficient structure and materials. The special climate requirements for the three display houses will inevitably require use of mechanical energy systems but every effort should be made to reduce this load.

The Site

The site is on the north eastern corner of the Waist Nature Reserve on a piece of land which was previously used for playing fields. It is close to a freeway on its northern edge and is accessed by a feeder road from the south. The orientation of the Visitor Centre should exploit the view down the length of the site in a north westerly direction.


The purpose of Wasit Nature Reserve is to preserve a site representative of the various indigenous habitats. The Visitor Centre with interpretive facilities and display houses will complement the Reserve. Specifically, the objectives are to:

• Demonstrate the diversity of Wasit Nature Reserve’s ecosystem;

• Promote public understanding of how man interacts with wetlands creating a greater awareness of the wider aspects of nature conservation in other climatic regions;

• Highlight the need to conserve wetland habitats with emphasis on hypersaline systems;

• Create a visitor attraction of international standing and interest;

• Serve the recreational and educational needs of the city’s visitors and residents;

• Educate and entertain children through creative display with ‘hands on’, interactive adventure and discovery exhibits,

• Introduce methods of using materials from environmentally sustainable sources suitable for recycling;

• Incorporate resource efficient design using natural light and ventilation by means of appropriate architecture and energy management systems, and

• Be financially viable deriving income by catering for local market needs, commercial use of convention centre and exhibition facilities and the general tourism market through the display houses, edutainment, merchandising and food service facilities.


1. Reception & Orientation

1.1. Entrance Foyer
1.2. Visitor Reception & Information
1.3. Video Orientation Pods for Nature
1.4. Reserve
1.5. Interpretive Centre for Display Houses
1.6. Exhibition Space
1.7. Service Facilities
1.8. Public Rest Rooms & Toilets


- Accessible from car parking, bus drop off point & 100 pedestrians with security check & pay point

- 50 General information & way finding material for visitors 50 sm. Alcoves off reception area demonstrating diversity of Wasit Nature Reserve's ecosystem, an understanding of how man interacts with wetlands together with creating a greater awareness of the wider

- 4 150 Aspects of wetland conservation permanent exhibition of material explaining the location and nature of the tropical & temperate ecosystems & introducing visitors by means of visual, 200 aural & tactile material to the different display houses major exhibition space to be used in isolation or together with visitor centre or convention activities. 200 area includes space for exhibition stands and props 50 storage & preparation are for exhibition material 150

- Focus of visitor centre and display houses are for plants, birds & insects of tropical, subtropical & temperate ecosystems. They should use water extensively for evaporative cooling tropical humidifying & aesthetic effects. Other components of centre should relate directly to the display houses. Possible to provide bird aviaries as extensions to display houses as shown in a 29% feasibility study.

2. Display Houses

2.1. Tropical House : #1
2.1.1. Plants
2.1.2. Butterflies & Plants
2.1.3. Insects & Plants
2.1.4. Service Facilities
2.2. Tropical House : #2
2.2.1. Plants
2.2.2. Butterflies & Plants
2.2.3. Insects & Plants
2.2.4. Service Facilities


- Series of display houses with sub tropical environmental conditions
- Storage, preparation, maintenance & custodial facilities for display houses
- Series of display houses with temperate environmental conditions
- Storage, preparation, maintenance & custodial facilities for display houses

3. Convention Facilities

3.1. Auditorium
3.2. Meeting Rooms
3.3. Functions & Exhibition Space
3.4. Resource Centre
3.5. Computing Facilities
3.6. Service Facilities
3.7. Rest Rooms & Toilets


- Auditorium with seating for 500
- Space for conference exhibition material & vendors stalls.
- Facility providing information and research facilities for public
- Dedicated area for various computer activities including area for small presentations
- Storage, preparation & custodial facilities for a convention area
- Breakaway rooms for small group workshops

4. Edutainment Facilities

4.1. Tactile Edutainment Facilities
4.2. Aural Edutainment Facilities
4.3. Visual Edutainment Facilities
4.4. Play Areas 100 Inside & outside
4.5. Service Facilities
4.6. Rest Rooms & Toilets


- Outcome based exhibits focusing on with play & adventure related to display houses, general components & outdoor facilities
- Spaces provided for displays by specialists
- Storage & custodial facilities for edutainment facilities

5. General

5.1. Coffee Shop
5.2. Cafeteria
5.3. Restaurants
5.4. Prayer Room
5.5. Merchandising Facilities
5.6. Nursery for Plant Sales
5.7. Service Facilities


- Coffee shop with view over display houses
- Cafeteria with vending machines
- Restaurants with view over display houses
- Prayer rooms for male & female with ablutions in a tranquil zone
- General merchandising facilities for curios, souvenirs & gifts
- Sale of plant material could be located in annexe to complex
- Service to general areas noting requirement for delivery to kitchens & removal of waste

6. Administration

6.1. Reception
6.2. Office for Curator
6.3. Offices for Administrative Staff
6.4. Board Room
6.5. Common Room & Kitchenette
6.6. Service Facilities
6.7. Staff Rest Rooms & Toilets


- Shared entrance with research & accessible to the public
- Includes waiting space
- Includes space for small meetings
- Meeting room for 25
- Space shared for interaction with research personnel with small kitchenette
- Restrooms shared with research staff

7. Research Facilities

7.1. Offices for Researchers
7.2. Maintenance Laboratories
7.3. Research Laboratories
7.4. Student Training
7.5. Resource Centre
7.6. Service Facilities


- 4% display houses
- For administration of research programmes and write up areas @ 20 sqm.
- Laboratories & supporting facilities for setting up & maintaining the display houses
- Laboratories & supporting facilities for research by various institutes
- Open plan office space for training students in curatorship of display houses @ 5 sqm. Each
- Centre for the storage & use of research material in many different formats
- Storage & custodial facilities for research facilities

8. Ornithological Institute

8.1. Reception
8.2. Office for Director
8.3. Office for Chief Executive
8.4. Offices for Researchers
8.5. Offices for Admin & Financial Staff
8.6. Offices for Consultants & Visitors
8.7. Other Offices
8.8. Common Room & Kitchenette
8.9. Service Facilities


- Proposed institute of middle eastern ornithology with components for research & monitoring, capacity building, consulting, education & awareness & Wasit institutional

- Main offices includes waiting space

- Main offices includes space for small meetings

- Other offices +/- 20 sm. Each

- Other offices for librarian, education officers, technicians, computing & environmental management

- Storage & custodial facilities for research facilities

Supporting Facilities

9.1. Car Parking
9.2. Bus Drop Off & Parking
9.3. Pedestrian Promenade
9.4. Security
9.5. Delivery Point
9.6. Stores Reception
9.7. Custodial Facilities & Toilets
9.8. Caretakers Flat


- Parking for 300 cars with Gatehouse, pay point & under cover access to Entrance Foyer. Parking to be external under pergola or shade canopy

- Porte Cochere drop off point for busses & serve passenger trips with direct access to Foyer

- Structured promenade between display houses and reserve as shown on Feasibility Study

- Security suite for Visitor Centre as a whole with CCTV monitors & staff facilities

- Vehicular Delivery Point for display materials, shops & food service facilities

- Reception point with office for Stores Manager

- Change Rooms for custodial staff & stores for cleaning materials

- Flat for Caretaker

Additional Notes for Total Assignable Area

Note 1 Areas in assignable square metres. No allowance made for circulation, custodial, mechanical plant & construction areas.

Note 2 Areas do not include car parking

Note 3 Residential accommodation only provided for Caretaker. No allowance in Brief for Staff Housing

Note 4 Areas Varied from original Brief as follows

- Parking provision reduced from 500 to 300 cars under pergola or shade canopy

- Outdoor amphitheatre of 5 000 sqm. Omitted

- Water areas reduced from 5 000 sqm. To 1 500 sqm.

- Display houses reduced from 5 250 sqm. To 3 000 sqm.

- Total scheduled areas reduced from previous 13 953 sqm. To 10 400 sqm.


The Baseline Assessment formed the blueprint to which all Landscape Design and planning was undertaken.

The focus became twofold:
- Perimeter pioneer screen planting
- Wetland rehabilitation



Pioneer plant material was chosen according to a prescribed set of criteria, they have to be:

- “Indigenous” to the Arabian Region

- Tough and hardy to withstand the harsh desert-like environment

- Salt tolerant

- Create an evergreen boundary screen

- Provide food and shelter for birds

In the dessert all newly created landscape areas have to be irrigated in order to survive and become established.

The optimisation of water usage was the key design criteria.

The system had to be:

- Fully automated – linked to central weather station and soil probes

- The system will be integrated into a total reserve management system

TSE – Treated Sewerage Effluent was identified as the source of irrigation water – This is a sustainable recycled source.

70 000 Cubic meters of TSE are pumped into the sea daily by the Sharjah Municipality.

- Obvious Environmental Hazards to the Wetland Ecosystem

- High nutrient loading, pathogens, bacteria and salinity.

- Ozone treatment was identified as the most environmentally friendly and cost effective method of secondary treatment.


The Wasit Nature Reserve is situated in the Northern Region of the United Arab Emirates on the outskirts of Sharjah City.
Below is an Aerial View of the site which has been demarcated for a Visitors Centre.

This is then translated into an accurate sketch which allows for depth perception.

A different perspective.

East Elevation

North Elevation

West Elevation

South Elevation

Birds-eye elevated perspective from the East


Birds-eye perspective from the West

Birds-eye perspective from the Freeway

Birds-eye perspective from SouthWest showing averies

3D rendering of the proposed visitors centre


A look at the site in 2008

Natural Halophyte plants and Tamarisk sp. Re-establishing themselves in the Wetland areas.

Work still to be completed - Rehabilitation of Phase 1

1. Construction of the weir, water level regulating gate.

2. Construction of the irrigation water reservoir and water treatment facility which will also house pump rooms.

3. Completion of the boundary pioneer planting.

4. Final grading and hand shaping of islands and other areas.