Foster and Partners, the architect of the project, describes the building as a monument and memorial, intended as a showcase of the history, culture and recent social and economic transformation of the Emirates.
'Welcoming and of its place'
A monument and memorial to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding president of the UAE, Zayed National Museum is intended as a symbol of a progressive nation, showcasing the history, culture and recent 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 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 galleries are suspended within five tapering steel volumes, which rise from a man-made embankment. Working in formation to channel air through the museum, the aerodynamic forms suggest the feathers at the tip of a falcon's wing and are oriented to take advantage of prevailing breezes.
A gallery devoted to Falconry and Conservation further develops this theme and is linked to an outdoor arena for live displays. 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 draws on a tradition of discreet, carefully positioned openings, which capture and direct the region's intense sunlight to illuminate and animate interior spaces. Objects are displayed within niches and on stone plinths that rise seamlessly from the floor.
The interior concept for the restaurant draws on the opulence and hospitality of the traditional tent, with carefully selected furnishings. The majlis, or VIP spaces, open onto a central courtyard, which offers guests a unique perspective - it is the only point in the building with a visual connection to the exterior of the wing forms.
Foster and Partners, based in London, is also at work on projects from an airport in Amman to an expansion of Barcelona's Camp Nou