The Museum of the Future in Dubai: the architecture and design of the most innovative museum in the world

If there is any city that can host a Museum of the Future with pride, it is certainly Dubai. It is a centre that has seen an extremely rapid transformation and urban expansion, and that has, within the space of a few decades, become a landmark around the world, hosting many of the most daring, fascinating and innovative contemporary architectural structures. Take the awe-inspiring Burj Khalifa skyscraper, for example, that soars above the city skyline at a height of 828 metres, winning the undisputed title of tallest building in the world; or the Infinity Bridge, whose loadbearing structure is inspired by the mathematical symbol for infinity; or the remarkable design of The Opus building, with its two towers that seem to melt into each other; or the gigantic Dubai Frame, that offers an exceptional 150-metre-high postcard of the city; or the elegant and unmistakeable Emirates Towers, with their equilateral cross-sections. These towers, like the Burj Khalifa, are situated on the legendary Sheikh Zayed Road; and right below them, on the same road, is the stupendous Dubai Museum of the Future, a building that is utterly unique, unlike any other building, and one that cannot fail to seize your attention. Not surprisingly, the National Geographic has included it in its list of the 14 most beautiful museums in the world: let’s take a look at the distinctive architectural features of this magnificent structure.

A brief overview of the Museum of the Future in Dubai

The Museum of the Future in Dubai is truly something quite unique. It is a structure situated at the top of an artificial green hill, which by its very presence seems to challenge the desert that surrounds the city. The actual structure itself is located on the summit of this small promontory, and is torus-shaped (the shape obtained by revolving a circumference) with an elliptical void at its centre. So it is something absolutely original, that looks a bit like an eye: the void inside the structure represents the future, while the solid part represents what we already know today. The metallic surface of the structure bears an enormous inscription in Arabic, which is a quotation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai: “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it and execute it. It isn’t something you await, but something you create.

The architect’s vision

The Dubai Museum of the Future was designed by architect Shaun Killa, who has designed many other important projects in the Arab world, such as the Marsa Al-Arab and the Bahrain World Trade Center. As anyone who approaches this structure can see, it is basically composed of three main elements: the hill beneath it, the structure that stands on the hill, and finally the void through its centre. As the Killa Design Studio explains: “The green hill represents the earth, with its solidity, permanence, and rootedness in place, time and history…The glimmering, futuristic upper building represents mankind, with all of its strength, artistry and ability to create in harmony with its surroundings… Lastly, the elliptical void within the upper structure represents innovation. This is done primarily by creating an empty space showing the unwritten future, which humanity, and the world can symbolically look towards.

A structure without pillars

At 77 metres tall and with a surface area of 30,000 square metres, the large structure of the Museum of the Future in Dubai presents an exquisite facade made of panels of stainless steel and fibreglass. Inside it are 7 floors that, in addition to the many rooms, also house an auditorium that can seat up to 420 people. What makes the building even more daring, in addition to its totally original shape, is the complete absence of any pillars: the MOTF – as the Dubai Museum of the Future is often abbreviated – is an enormous example of the application of Feng Shui principles. Supporting the entire building is a structure of diagonally intersecting beams, modelled using in-house parametric tools. In all there are about 2,400 steel elements, creating a miracle of engineering that is made possible by the most advanced 3D modelling technology and the expertise of the many engineers, technicians, craftsmen and specialized workers involved in the project.

The Killa Design Studio won the design competition for the Dubai Museum of the Future in 2015, and construction started soon afterwards: the opening of the museum was scheduled for 2021, but eventually took place the following year.

The interior of the Dubai Museum of the Future

The interior of the Dubai Museum of the Future is mainly illuminated by sunlight that can filter through the over 1,000 reinforced fibreglass panels arranged along the external surface, which also allows good thermal insulation. We should point out that the building has received LEED Platinum certification for its level of insulation, as well as for the regenerative drive lifts, the greywater recycling, the photovoltaic plant and other important sustainable technologies used in the project.

The interior design of the Dubai Museum of the Future, and the exhibitions themselves, are aimed at taking the visitor into the future, looking at what the world will be like in 50 years’ time. As they enter the museum through an opening in the green hillside below, visitors will be immediately struck by the large spiral staircase leading upwards to attractions such as the space shuttle simulation, the vault of life, the ecosystem simulator, the sensory room, the panoramic bridge, the room dedicated to futuristic technologies and a floor devoted entirely to workshops and play spaces for kids.