This Extraordinary Winged Museum Is Preparing For Flight In Abu Dhabi

The Zayed National Museum, an extraordinary new project in Abu Dhabi designed by the prestigious British firm Foster + Partners, is nearing completion. This building features five sculpted “wings” for aesthetic and functional purposes, engineered to keep the interior cool naturally.

Initially unveiled in 2010, the Zayed National Museum was conceived as a tribute to the United Arab Emirates’ first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The winged design reflects the late leader’s love of falconry and incorporates traditional Islamic motifs.

The structure has a 30-meter (98-foot) tall “mound” inspired by the UAE’s topography, with decorative steel wings rising to heights between 83 meters (272 feet) and 123 meters (403 feet). These wings function similarly to chimneys, drawing hot air up and out of the building.

“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. Fresh air is also captured at low level, drawn through buried ground-cooling pipes, and then released into the museum’s lobby,” Foster + Partners explains.

The museum centers around a large atrium illuminated with indirect natural light, avoiding unnecessary space heating. On the upper floor, four pod-shaped galleries are positioned at the base of each wing.

Once operational, the museum will have a range of exhibits, including ancient marine creatures dating back millions of years, early Aramaic coins, and contemporary culture. Additionally, a landscaped narrative garden will highlight key moments in Sheikh Zayed’s life.

The Zayed National Museum is part of a broader development initiative in the area, which includes the renowned Louvre Abu Dhabi and the forthcoming Natural History Museum.

According to a recent statement by the Emirates News Agency, the entire development is expected to be completed by 2025.

Source: Foster + Partners

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