Most Influential Projects 2021

45 Museum of the Future

Museum of the Future

For embedding its future-focused purpose into its next-gen design and construction

To the naked eye, Dubai’s Museum of the Future looks as though it’s been lowered from space, gently floating alongside the busy Sheikh Zayed Road. In actuality, the building is firmly grounded—structurally and strategically.

The AED500 million project, sponsored by the Dubai Future Foundation, will deliver a community site for exhibits, immersive theater and themed attractions. Its mission—to explore today’s most pressing threats while highlighting possible solutions—is literally etched into its facade. The 78-meter-high (255-foot-high) structure is decorated with thoughts on the future from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai. And the building’s unusual ringlike shape? That’s meant to represent humankind’s understanding, with a hollow void at its center to acknowledge what’s still unknown, according to architecture studio Killa Design.

Even in a city full of iconic architecture, the museum is already gaining attention, earning a cameo in a Dubai tourism video starring Zac Efron. Despite opening delays, officials still hope to welcome the museum’s first visitors this year. Here’s what they can expect:

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Glimpses of What’s to Come
The 30,000-square-meter (322,917-square-foot) museum comprises six floors of gallery space, along with three stories in the greenscaped mound that forms its base (including a lobby, restaurant and 420-seat auditorium). Exhibitions will have a forward-looking bent, focusing on near-future technologies, outer space and bioengineering—and there’s even a kids’ space for "future heroes."

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Taking Shape
To create the museum’s unique torus shape, engineering firm Buro Happold wrote a customized growth algorithm to determine the optimal arrangement for the structure’s underlying steel diagonal grid framework. This allowed the team to minimize connection points and standardize the diameter of the beams, making sourcing simpler while reducing total weight and steel materials.

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Windows on the Word
The museum’s shimmering facade is made up of more than 1,000 stainless steel and glass fiber polymer panels. The intricate Arabic writing that decorates the building’s exterior does double-duty as its windows, with each piece of script 3D-mapped onto the exterior’s curved surface and carefully placed to adhere to the rules of calligraphy without exposing any of the 1,000 nodes of the diagrid beneath.

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The Future Is Digital
The engineering and design teams used building information modeling at every stage of design and construction. The technology required a shift in culture and workflow but was integral to achieving the museum’s geometric feats. It also helped keep the structure on target to achieve LEED platinum certification. Using a 3D energy model, engineers came up with more than 50 eco-friendly design solutions, including passive solar architecture and water- and energy-recovery strategies. The result: a 45 percent reduction in water use and total energy savings of 25 percent.