Designed to be a monumental memorial to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Zayed National Museum by Foster and Partners is the centerpiece of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. As a landmark, the museum showcases the history, culture and social and economic transformation of the United Emirates. The aim of the architects, regarding the form, was to combine a contemporary, highly efficient form with traditional Arabic design elements, in order to create the sustainable and welcoming place of cultural gathering. 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 design employs a combination of passive and active strategies – the solar thermal 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. Additionally, air vents open at the top of the towers, taking advantage of the negative pressure on the wing profile, in order to take the hot air out.
E lightweight steel structure, visible from outside, balances with a more monumental interior experience. The galleries are anchored by a vivid top-lit central lobby, which goes deep into the earth to exploit its thermal properties. The lobby brings together shops, cafes, an auditorium and informal venues for performances of poetry and dance.