Machado + Silvetti Associates were appointed by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage to design an impressive, fully glazed museum in celebration of the castellar birthplace of Sheikh Khalifa, reigning emir of Abu Dhabi.
A fully glazed, steel-framed museum structure close to Al Ain in the UAE
The existing fort, around which the new works have taken place, is set in the oasis of Al Mawaiji close to the town of Al Ain in the UAE. The building comprises traditional nomadic construction, including rendered mud bricks and floors created from palm tree trunks. Over a century old and of significant cultural importance, the site had potential to pose archaeological, as well as architectural, difficulties.
Physical constraints were key considerations in the design stages and throughout construction. The crenellated walls which surround the central courtyard set the maximum height of the structure, since the roof of the building was required to be concealed. Similarly, at ground level archaeological investigations were ongoing, and the building’s historical value imposed limits on excavation depths. To mitigate disturbance to any relics we specified a raft foundation. This worked alongside a steel frame with columns cantilevered out of the concrete; steel was chosen both to minimise the load imparted onto the raft and provide optimum visibility from inside the vitreous structure.
Two separate plant rooms were constructed, which used generators to pipe cool air under the ground from four large chillers into the museum. The layout was designed such that the air could circulate from a ceiling void, down through a cavity in the triple-glazed walling and into the dedicated space between the concrete raft and suspended floor, facilitating an innovative cooling system.
Particularly impressive, given the potentially high levels of seismic activity in the area, was our ability to produce a steel-framed building, comprising large areas of glazed floor with glass beams spanning up to 9 m, glass-clad walls and ceilings, in a way which achieved maximum stability with minimal bracing.