History

The Etihad Museum is also known as the Union House, it is a museum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Historically, it was called as the Jumeirah Guesthouse and al-Diyafah Palace and it is a landmark that collects and displays the artefacts that represents heritage and culture of UAE.

Interestingly, the signing of the country’s constitution, the raising of UAE’s flag, and the creation of the United Arab Emirates as a country on 2nd December 1971 took place in the area that the museum is located in. The formation took place in the Union House that is an integral part of the museum.

Etihad Museum by Moriyama and Teshima Architects - Sheet1
Etihad Museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae

Materials

In the exterior of the museum double-curved skin with steel superstructure was used for the facade. In addition to this, glass columns, glass fins, and double-curved GFRP (Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer) was used as cladding. 

On the other hand, luxurious and elegant materials were used such as marble and stone. Marble was used for flooring, and carved stone was used for wall cladding. Some other materials used in the project, such as textured black marble, wooden columns, metallic bronze fixtures and white ceiling planes.   

Etihad Museum by Moriyama and Teshima Architects - Sheet2
Sloped sitting spaces of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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Sunken courtyards of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae

Building

The museum was designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects in the form of a manuscript. The museum was built in 2016 and has a footprint of 25000 sq m. The seven columns that support the structure depict the pens used by the rulers of seven emirates of UAE to sign the official documents. The building has eight permanent pavilion structures:

Pavilion One: Illustrates a documentary film based on the history of the UAE.

Pavilion Two: Homes a panoramic interactive map focusing the era before the formation of the federation.

Pavilion Three: Showcases an interactive timeline that emphasizes important historical events before the union.

Pavilion four: An interactive guide to the formation of the union is displayed.

Pavilion Six: A homage is paid to the crucial turning points and challenges confronted the founding fathers before 1971.

Pavilion Seven: This pavilion is dedicated to the UAE Constitution and displays the actual declaration itself.

Pavilion Eight: This pavilion is an open gallery celebrating the newborn nation.

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A distant view of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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The museum reflects beautiful parabolic curves_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae

Design and Planning of The Etihad Museum

The gallery space of the museum hosts the vast corridors, a theatre, an instructive area, and a sporting facility area. The gallery region is divided into eight spaces. The project offers a brief historical timeline of UAE’s rich legacy throughout the years from 1968 to 1974 to its visitors. Each lobby space is dedicated to one of the founding fathers and their contributions. In the instructive areas, intelligent screens have been installed. These screens are user friendly and provide data on genealogical records. Moreover, the library space homes around 3,000 political and social books, a collection of magazines, CDs, and various items identified with the UAE.

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The interior space of the museum dedicated to founding fathers_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae

Architectural Features

A large part of the museum is underground, including the permanent and temporary galley spaces, event halls, theatres and secondary functions. The form of the building is interesting and it is inspired from the shape of the constitution manuscript. Moving on, the reflecting pool adds a dramatic effect to the building.

The pedestrian walkaways and landscape complement the museum building. The user-friendly pathways and signage help the visitors to navigate through the different spaces of the museum. One of the key features of the museum is the glass cladded atrium of the building. 

The Visitor’s Pavilion building’s form is inspired by ‘envelope’. The building is a fusion between traditional construction methods and technological advancements and showcases a “floating paper” effect. The amphitheater of the muse connects to the spaces on the mezzanine level – open exhibition spaces and cafes which frame panoramic views to the surroundings. The sculptural stairway is an important design feature of the space. 

The form of the staircase reflects the curves of Arabic calligraphic scripts. The staircase leads to the supporting functions of the museum – library, theater, event spaces and permanent and temporary galleries. 

The exhibition spaces lead to two sunken courtyard spaces and four skylights that connect to the plaza on the upper level. Some of the additional spaces that the museum hosts are classrooms, administration office spaces, cafes that are well-lit and ventilated. Interestingly, the light wells from the sunken garden spaces light the museum’s library space and also create quiet pockets for reading and self-reflection.

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Exterior of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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The museum is looking over the reflecting pool_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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Exterior perspective of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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Lower level floor plans of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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Upper level floor plans of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae
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Sections of the museum_©etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae

Etihad means ‘union’ in Arabic. The museum celebrates the union of the country UAE which formed by seven emirates – Abu Dubai, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. The museum is an icon of contemporary architecture in the region. 

Images / Visual Mediums

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URL : https://etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/News/Pages/14-03-2017-01.aspx?IsDlg=1

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Citations

Etihad Museum (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etihad_Museum (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Rojas, C. (2017) Etihad Museum / Moriyama & Teshima, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/886191/etihad-museum-moriyama-and-teshima (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Etihad Museum: Moriyama & Teshima architects (no date) Archello. Available at: https://archello.com/project/etihad-museum (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Etihad Museum: An architectural tribute – google arts & culture (no date) Google. Google. Available at: https://artsandculture.google.com/story/etihad-museum-an-architectural-tribute-etihad-museum/hgVBQAjhLtaqKg?hl=en (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Dubai culture sheds light on the iconic Etihad Museum Architecture and Design (no date) Dubai Culture Sheds Light on the Iconic Etihad Museum Architecture and Design Etihad Museum –. Available at: https://etihadmuseum.dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/News/Pages/14-03-2017-01.aspx?IsDlg=1 (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Vijayan, V. (2021) The Etihad Museum, Dubai-UAE – Archestudy Museums Museums – 2023, archEstudy. Available at: https://archestudy.com/the-etihad-museum-dubai-uae/ (Accessed: January 16, 2023).

Author

Mahima Aswani is an architect and designer, who has worked on ambitious projects such as the Iraq Pavilion for Expo 2020 and high-end residential and commercial projects. Mahima’s thesis project, Goodbye Slumbai won the Community Design Award in the Senior Thesis Showcase at AUD, Dubai and was published in Dezeen magazine in 2021.

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