Sheikh Zayed National Museum

Invited Architectural Competition Abu Dhabi / UAE / 2007

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Designing the Museum dedicated to the character of Sheikh Zayed involves telling an architectural story, which, by means of a cognitive path, manifests the heritage of that figure who expressed the values of belonging and common identity shared by the seven cities of the United Arab Emirates. The project locates the emotional heart of the Museum, meant to be a common house, in the shelter of the generous shade provided by the majestic roof studded with shards of blue majolica, which, like a tent in the desert with the wind from the Gulf blowing through it, protects the memory left as a heritage by the Sheikh. Above the roof rise seven towers seventy-seven metres high. These are symbolic interpretations of the theme of the minaret, the lighthouse in Islam (manar). The Towers of Light are the lighthouses of Saadiyat Island as well as of the city of Abu Dhabi and represent the unity achieved by the seven Emirates, rising above the skyline as new landmarks of the community. The design of the urban space, defined by the Museum and three exhibition Pavilions, pursues sensitive as well as perceptive qualities capable of structuring and orienting the project. A scenic logic pervades the project with dilation and compression of space in order to soften the building and spaces designed around the atmospheric values of air and light.
The space in the design proves sensitive to variations in atmospheric conditions, like the great roof composed of sinuous lines beneath the Towers of Light covered with shards of blue majolica and photovoltaic panels which protects the Museum treasure chest, it contrasts with the daylight in order to create the shady conditions typical of Islamic architecture, allowing the light to filter through only where necessary. Thus the three Pavilions of the Biennale become shells covered with reflective steel, and like enormous conceptual art installations, remain in intimate dialogue with the landscape and natural elements in a continuous play of perceptive cross reference. The design project presented for the heart of the Cultural District is not strictly limited to this area alone in so far as the circular piazza together with the adjacent poly-functional buildings are included in an idea which defines an overall vision of the space so as to give the design a sense of completion. The path which connects the Performing Art Center first with the three Pavilions of the Biennale and then with the SZNM must be conceived as a single spatial system.

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    Designing the Museum dedicated to the character of Sheikh Zayed involves telling an architectural story, which, by means of a cognitive path, manifests the heritage of that figure who expressed the values of belonging and common identity shared by the seven cities of the United Arab Emirates. The project locates the emotional heart of the Museum, meant to be a common house, in the shelter of the generous shade provided by the majestic roof studded with shards of blue majolica, which, like a...

    Project details
    • Year 2007
    • Client Tourism Development & Investment Company - Abu Dhabi, UAE
    • Status Competition works
    • Type Museums
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