“Nobody can live the present without recalling the past. It is from history that we learn and acquire excellence.” Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Last week I attended the first Multaqa (meaning ‘The Gathering’ in Arabic) previewing Abu Dhabi’s latest addition to Saadiyat Cultural District, Zayed National Museum. This Multaqa was the first of a series of five different themed talks scheduled to be held all over the emirate until May to keep the public informed prior to the opening of the new facility next year.
Presented by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA-AD) myself and all the other guests were seated outside under patio heaters (much-needed fleecy blankets were also provided) at Manarat Al Saadiyat to listen to the panel bring the museum’s narrative to life. Entitled ‘National Museum, National Identity‘ the panel discussion was led by Zaki Nusseibeh (Cultural Adviser to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs) and the very eloquent and articulate Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) and moderated by Salama Al Shamsi (Project Manager of Zayed National Museum, TCA-AD).
As well as discussing the its identity and design, the panel talked about the ethos of the museum that will be located at the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District. McGregor spoke about National Museums around the world and their significance in today’s modern society and how they have evolved with new technology and the way we now learn and communicate.
The museum will stand as an iconic monument and memorial to the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004) and the seven permanent galleries (as well as dynamic special exhibition programme) will tell the story of the country’s unification and development achieved during his lifetime as well as the history of the region and its cultural connections across the world. Each of the seven galleries will present a different theme; Sheikh Zayed: Life and Times, Falconry & Conservation, Land & Water, People & Heritage, History & Society, Science & Learning and Faith & Islam to give visitors an overview of the UAE’s timeline. Different storytelling mediums and many artefacts will be showcased at the museum to assist in the visual storytelling including photographs, documents, film footage, spoken recordings as well as live displays and the latest technology.
In a bid to have a distinctive and noteworthy building to honour Sheikh Zayed, an international competition was held for architectural companies to submit their designs for the museum. A whopping twelve leading global architectural firms from ten different countries submitted designs and the original twelve were then whittled down to the last four from Norway, Britain, Japan and Canada. The winning design was chosen from internationally acclaimed British architects Foster and Partners.
The impressive building has been inspired by Sheikh Zayed’s love of falconry and portrays the dynamic of flight and the feathers of a falcon, the country’s much-loved national bird. Each gallery space will be located under a steel feather (the tallest of which rises 125 metres) where visitors will be able to explore the history and culture of the UAE. It’s well-known that Sheikh Zayed was a lover of all things flora (as reflected in the designs at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque) so in a fitting memorial the museum will be accessed via landscaped gardens and surrounded by water.
Alongside Manarat Al Saadiyat, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the striking cutting-edge design of the Zayed National Museum will create a spectacular addition to the Saadiyat Island Cultural District skyline and will cement Abu Dhabi’s presence on the world’s art and culture stage.
To find out more about the Zayed National Museum and the remaining talks that will take place across the capital visit the website here. For more information about the Saadiyat Cultural District click here
The first three photos are © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. The remaining photos are used courtesy of www.zayednationalmuseum.ae