Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners


Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners have unveiled designs for a museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.

Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

The Zayed National Mueum will feature five lightweight steel towers resembling birds' wings, set within a landscaped mound with gallery spaces located at ground level.

Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

The latticed towers will be designed to act as thermal chimneys that will draw cool air into the spaces below, whilst cooling pipes buried beneath will release fresh air into the lobby.

Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

Named after UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the museum will be dedicated to the history and culture of the country.

Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

The museum is the latest superstar-designed building to be unveiled for Saadiyat Island cultural district; a performing arts centre by Zaha Hadid, a Guggenheim by Frank Gehry, a branch of the Louvre museum by Jean Nouvel and a maritime museum by Tadao Ando are already underway.

Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners

See the Masdar Institute by Foster which was opened in Abu Dhabi two days ago in our earlier story.

The following information is from Foster + Partners:

Designs for Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi revealed

Designs for the Zayed National Museum have been officially unveiled today by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Conceived as a monument and memorial to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding president of the UAE, the Museum will be the centrepiece of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District and will showcase the history, culture and more recently the social and economic transformation of the Emirates.

Architecturally, the aim has been to combine a highly efficient, contemporary form with elements of traditional Arabic design and hospitality to create a museum that is sustainable, welcoming and culturally of its place. Celebrating Sheikh Zayed’s legacy and love of nature, the museum is set within a landscaped garden, based on a timeline of his life.

The display spaces are housed within a man-made, landscaped mound. The galleries are placed at the bases of five solar thermal towers. The towers heat up and act as thermal chimneys to draw cooling air currents naturally through the museum. Fresh air is captured at low level and drawn through buried ground-cooling pipes and then released into the museum’s lobby. The heat at the top of the towers works to draw the air up vertically through the galleries due to the thermal stack effect. Air vents open at the top of the wing-shaped towers taking advantage of the negative pressure on the lee of the wing profile to draw the hot air out.

Here in the museum these towers are lightweight steel structures, sculpted aerodynamically to work like the feathers of a bird’s wing.  The analogies with falcons and flight are deliberate and relate directly to Sheikh Zayed’s love of falconry. This theme is further celebrated by a gallery devoted to the subject as part of a wider focus on conservation. These inner spaces open up to an outdoor arena for live displays with hunting birds.

Balancing the lightweight steel structures with a more monumental interior experience, the galleries are anchored by a dramatic top-lit central lobby, which is dug into the earth to exploit its thermal properties and brings together shops, cafes, an auditorium and informal venues for performances of poetry and dance. Throughout, the treatment of light and shade draws on a tradition of discreet, carefully positioned openings, which capture and direct the region’s intense sunlight to illuminate and animate these interior spaces. Objects are displayed within niches and on stone plinths that rise seamlessly from the floor.
The museum contains a variety of performance spaces. A large auditorium, lined with Emirati textiles, provides an evocative setting for presentations and films. The lobby incorporates more informal venues for poetry readings, music and dance, where the audience can gather in a circle to enjoy the spectacle and atmosphere of traditional performances.

The interior concept for the restaurant draws on the opulence and hospitality of the Bedouin tent, with carefully selected furnishings. The majlis, or VIP spaces, open onto a central courtyard. This traditional space offers guests a unique perspective, as it is the only place in the museum where one can enjoy views of the wind towers.

Lord Foster said: “It has been a great privilege to work on the Zayed National Museum, to carry forward Sheikh Zayed’s vision and to communicate the dynamic character of a contemporary United Arab Emirates. We have sought to establish a building that will be an exemplar of sustainable design, resonating with Sheikh Zayed’s love of nature and his wider heritage.”

See also:


Gehry, Nouvel, Ando, Hadid build in Abu Dhabi Jean Nouvel in
Abu Dhabi
Zaha Hadid in
Abu Dhabi

Posted on Thursday November 25th 2010 at 1:13 pm by Catherine Warmann. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • GJS

    A bit reminiscent of the closing scene in the original Planet of the Apes. When Charlton Heston finds the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand.

  • Gemeloluis

    El equipo de Foster no inventa, transforma ideas ya ejecutadas. Me recuerda a el Noumea de Piano y a las bodegas de Calatrava….

  • vahid.ezedi

    Is it Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center by Renzo Piano?

  • isla

    oook, say whatever you want, this is so Piano

  • ATY

    I keep seeing fake fingernail extensions of some buried hand trying to dig itself out of the sand.

  • lukluk

    This is a photoshop of the Sydney Opera House.

  • jura

    Wouldn't be the first time, that Foster copies from Piano.

  • Bob

    Sydney Opera House version 2.

  • Like so much of the architecture being imported into this area from the west, this design invites snickering and mean comments. This design proposal does not inspire awe or wonder, merely the disappointment of watching a con artist take advantage of a mark.

  • Jorn

    "Abitare" recently published an issue, called "Being Renzo Piano" and, shortly after, an issue called "Being Norman Foster".
    The next issue will be called "Being Renzo Foster".
    Available at your newsstand in Abu Dhabi soon!

  • M.G.K

    hay calm down maybe it is a little bet similar to piano`s but it is not a copy and past there is a proses behind it , there is a deference in the material and masses and in the hole concept it is pretty good .

  • Ahmad

    I dont know guys … but does anyone of you have a Pritzker award to be able to post silly homo erectus comments on one of the most renowned Architects in the world?! I dont think so!

    there are no plans ! no sections.. so you can judge and if so by the image it self it doesnt qualify for a so called Piano approach! you have no clue your talking about…. oh wait maybe because its in the middle east !! I see, since over here everything is possible I forgot..
    If Charles Jencks saw your comments he will have a stroke.

  • )eroen

    Piano's project doesn't look like a fencing helmet with sunshading!

  • me

    Oke, I like this very much. It's lightweight, airy and very nice shaped. This is a masterpiece of Foster. And I hope – for all criticasters – that Foster had a bit of inspiration by the work of Renzo Piano. They inspire me both.

  • Question? Why you did not use in this project solar battery? After Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND movie I was shocked all year Abu Dhabi has sun!!!

  • motoko

    lightweight wings of a bird that totally hit the floor!

  • G.N.

    A seashells motive is possible and can be. But in the battle for expressive silhouette the idea of laying seashells was lost. The use of metal looking material is questionable too. I think, making all of that in Sgigeru Ban style could give an other, ecological pattern for this building.

  • Khamon

    This is what you get when you blend the Sydney Opera with the Jean Marie Tjibaou (Piano) and you make it in steel.
    On one side of Abu Dhabi we see Masdar city and on the other this?! (this is what we call sustainable equilibrium)

  • Irene Cornelius

    A breath of fresh air, quite beautiful, I'd really love to go to see it.

  • Ardavan

    The true winer of the competition should be Shigeru Ban, Foster won this because of political reason, guess who attaneded the ceremony yesterday, qeen of england

  • William

    Definitely reminiscent of thunder birds or a city in a sci fi film…

    the renderings for this building are only shown probably because that is all the clients care about and the plan isnt even worked out yet- look at our shining new superstar building that looks like a spaceship and costs millions of pounds.

  • Sea Bas

    Aparently the UAE Sheikhs want an 'oil' fountain / feature for the Zayed Museum. Nothing says 'welcome' better than a jet of crude oil shooting up into the lobby. Watch out as people flick ciggerette butts into it…. If only the locals were designing this building themselves….that would be a real laugh!!!

  • All I see is ego

    Please do not insult Piano

  • disappointing

    ….The original entry from Fosters for this competition was a series of cubes… and the second place entry from Snøhetta was a landscape plinth with solar blades….

  • RFK

    looks so much so like green muscles

  • sj.

    National Museum? For what?

  • kitchy

  • Will

    Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre? Must try harder.