Page 15 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine III

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The creation of Zayed National Museum was born from
the initiative to create a striking building in honour of
Sheikh Zayed that would also become an iconic symbol
for the nation. Internationally renowned architects Foster
& Partners designed a dramatic piece of architecture
that reflects Sheikh Zayed’s passion for falconry. Based
on a powerful symbol of the rich cultural heritage of the
UAE – the falcon – the Zayed National Museum provides
the centerpiece for the Saadiyat Cultural District and is
anticipated to become one of the most globally recognised
buildings in the arts world.
Having seen this absolutely awe-inspiring architectural
masterpiece for ourselves this is by no means an over-
ambitious claim. Inspired by the feathers of a falcon and
the energy of it taking flight, cutting-edge technology
has been employed to create a magnificent building
featuring steel feathers – the tallest of which reaches
an impressive 125 metres. Architecturally, the building
merges contemporary form with elements of traditional
Arabic design and hospitality to create a museum that is
both welcoming and culturally in keeping with the area. In
terms of sustainability, The Zayed National Museum has
been built in harmony with its surrounding environment
not only reflecting the visions of Sheikh Zayed in its
content and visual design, but also to complement the
local elements rather than work against them.
This extravagant enhancement to the Saddiyat Island
skyline is set within beautifully landscaped gardens based
on a timeline of Sheik Zayed’s life and surrounded by
water. Reflecting both the Sheikh’s legacy and his love
of nature not only do visitors have the opportunity to
discover a remarkable history, but the location creates a
noteworthy destination all of its own, so the incredible
experience begins from outside the museum.
The interior design of the museum is an intrinsic part of
the exhibition rather than simply a building to showcase
its exhibits. The use of light throughout the museum
illustrates a convention of subtle and carefully placed
openings to capture and direct the region’s powerful
sunlight in order to illuminate and animate the interior
and show everything off. Objects are displayed within
alcoves and on stone plinths that rise impeccably from the
floor. The galleries are suspended within five lightweight
tapered steel structures designed in aerodynamic form to
evoke images of the feathers at the tip of a falcon’s wing
and take advantage of the gentle breezes. Air vents open
at the top of the wing-shaped towers to draw the hot air
out. A gallery dedicated to Falconry and Conservation
is linked to an outdoor arena for live displays. The steel
constructions cleverly contrast with a more classic interior
where the galleries are secured by a top-lit central lobby,
which is dug into the earth to make use of its thermal
properties – the solar thermal towers heat to act as
thermal chimneys to draw cooling air currents naturally
through the museum. This design unifies the shops, cafes,
an auditorium and performance areas where poetry and
dance is presented in a casual and friendly atmosphere.
A centre for learning and discussion
In recognition of the affection Sheikh Zayed extended
to everyone, the Zayed National Museum will be a
public and civic building to welcome people from all
backgrounds and walks of life. Within this centre of
learning, discussion will be encouraged and visitors will
discover a man who had a passionate commitment to
education, conservation, environmental sustainability,
heritage and culture. The ‘Life and Times Gallery’
will use film, audio and multimedia to tell the story of
Sheikh Zayed and his unification of the UAE. Sheikh
Zayed’s keen beliefs and values, his strong faith and
deep humanitarianism are central to the stories being
communicated as visitors discover the challenges he faced
and examine artefacts from Abu Dhabi, the UAE and
beyond. The Sheikh Zayed Library provides the perfect
partner to the gallery, working in harmony to create an
overall picture.
The restaurant with its considered furnishings has been
created to reflect the opulence and welcoming vibe of the
traditional tent. The majlis, or VIP spaces, open onto a
central courtyard – the only position in the building with
a visual link to the exterior of the wing forms – giving
guests an exclusive view. It’s the perfect place to gather and
discuss the wonderful experience and knowledge gained
within the museum.