Four global architectural firms short-listed for UAE’s Sheikh Zayed national museum

Published November 4th, 2007 - 02:00 GMT

Four of the world’s leading architectural firms have been short-listed as part of the second stage of the international design competition to select an iconic concept for the planned Sheikh Zayed National Museum in the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, which lies just 500 metres offshore the capital of the United Arab Emirates.


The short-listed candidates have been selected from 13 invited entries in a competition conceived by Their Highnesses Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.


The short-list includes designs by: the UK’s Foster & Partners, Norway’s Snohetta, Shingeru Ban of Japan and Moriyama & Teshima of Canada.


“In staging this competition we are seeking an architectural design worthy of a tribute to the father of our nation,” said HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), which manages and develops ADTA’s tourism assets.


“In the short-listed designs we have a range of inspirational concepts from which the finalist will fulfil our ambitions. The short-listed candidates have been responsible for some of the most note-worthy architecture of recent times and their competition designs live up to their well-earned reputations.”


Foster + Partners Ltd is one of the UK's leading architectural firms, strongly associated with its founder, Norman Foster, now Lord Foster. It has constructed many high profile glass and steel, hi-tech buildings worldwide and is particularly recognised for Singapore’s New Supreme Court Building; the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Astana, Kazakhstan; New York’s Hearst Tower; The Bow in Calgary and Croydon Tower, London.


Snohetta specialises in architectural services for cultural and commercial buildings, parks and gardens, bridges, roads and public spaces. Its notable projects include Alexandria Library in Egypt and the New Opera House in Norway.

Shigeru Ban Architects is the practice of award-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, renowned for his ecological and humanitarian designs. Nominated by Time magazine as a 21st century, innovator in architect and design, Shigeru Ban is the name behind Zurich's celebrated Rietberg Museum, the Mete Centre in Pompidou, France and the New School of Business, American University of Beirut.


Moriyama & Teshima Architects is one of Canada's premier design oriented architectural firms. Its extensive project portfolio spans commercial, institutional and cultural projects in over a dozen countries including The National Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Currently, the firm's work ranges from several large-scale projects integrating technology and innovative environments for working and learning with substantial design, to a new 18,000 square feet Buddhist temple.

The Sheikh Zayed National Museum is to be a tribute to HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late UAE President, who played an instrumental role in the formation of the UAE Federation and was a highly respected international statesman and award-winning environmental pioneer.


The short-listed concepts include designs that reflect Islamic geometries, the natural colours of UAE and all meet the design criteria of environmental efficiency and sustainability, paying tribute to Sheikh Zayed’s reputation for greening the desert.


The competition is being judged by an expert panel chaired by Zaki Nusseibeh, adviser to the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs, and it includes: Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning; Robert A. M. Stern, a practicing architect and Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture; Farshid Moussavi, a practicing architect and Professor In Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and member of the Agha Khan Architectural Award Steering Committee; Peter Wilson, Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s redevelopment project and Head of Collections and former Director of Major Projects for London’s Tate Gallery; Qingyum Ma, principle of the firm MADA s.p.a.m, one of the most visible Chinese practices on the international scene; Elie Haddad, architect and associate professor of architecture at the Lebanese American University in Byblos.

The competition winner is due to be announced on the 3rd December this year, during UAE’s national day celebrations. The Sheikh Zayed National Museum will span 130,000 square feet and feature five galleries individually devoted to UAE Heritage, the Environment, The Transformation of the Emirates, Unity Through Leadership and Education. The museum will also include an education centre, theatre, shops and a café and a visitor services area.


The Sheikh Zayed National Museum will be a key asset in Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District proposition which also includes the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary art museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi universal museum, a performing arts centre, a maritime museum and a park with pavilions devoted to culture and the arts. Some of the world’s most eminent architects have already been commissioned for the museum designs including, Frank Gehry for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Jean Nouvel for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zaha Hadid for the performing arts centre and Japan’s Tadao Ando for the maritime museum.  Together the museums make up the world’s single largest cluster of cultural assets.


An exhibition on Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District and its museum and arts centre concepts is currently running at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi and is open to the public from 10am until 10pm daily. The exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the Abu Dhabi of tomorrow and is unique in that it gathers together, in one place, the latest work of some of the most recognised architects of the 21st century.

© 2007 Al Bawaba (

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