Foster + Partners, the UK-based architectural firm behind such innovative designs as Qatar’s Lusail Iconic Stadium and Masdar City, has unveiled yet another breathtaking concept with its design for the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. The design comprises five wing-shaped solar towers sculpted aerodynamically to work like the feathers of a bird’s wing and draw cooling air currents through the museum.

Conceived as a monument and memorial to the late founding president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the wing-shaped design was chosen to reflect Sheikh Zayed’s love of falconry. The museum will be the centerpiece of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District with the five lightweight steel towers sitting atop a man-made, landscaped mound and the museum’s galleries placed at their bases.

Thermal chimneys

Fresh air that is captured at low level and drawn through buried ground-cooling pipes is released into the museum’s lobby. As the towers heat up, they act as thermal chimneys to draw the air up vertically through the galleries by way of the thermal stack effect.

The thermal stack effect, also referred to as the chimney effect, is driven by buoyancy that occurs due to a difference in indoor-to-outdoor air density resulting from temperature and moisture differences. The greater the thermal difference and the height of the structure, the greater the buoyancy force, and thus the thermal stack effect.

Air vents at the top of the wing-shaped towers also take advantage of the negative pressure on the lee side of the wing profile to draw the hot air out and keep the structures ventilated.

The central lobby is dug into the earth to take advantage of its thermal properties, while the interior spaces open up to an outdoor arena for live displays with hunting birds. There is also a gallery devoted to falconry as part of a wider focus on conservation.

"We have sought to establish a building that will be an exemplar of sustainable design, resonating with Sheikh Zayed’s love of nature and his wider heritage,” said Lord Foster.

Saadiyat Island is located 500 meters (1,640 ft) off the coast of Abu Dhabi and is the largest single mixed-use development in the Arabian Gulf. Arranged as seven districts, the Cultural District will also include the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as a Performing Arts Center and Maritime Museum. The Zayed National Museum is already under construction and will be the first of the museums proposed for the island.

View gallery - 6 images