The first of the permanent cultural projects that Empty culminated in the Middle East is the Eithad Museum in Dubai, opened to the public on 7 January 2017. It is situated in the city’s historical Jumeirah district, home to Union House where the treaty establishing the United Arab Emirates was signed on 2 December 1971. In fact, part of the museum project consisted in restoring Union House to its original appearance as well as building a new adjacent edifice designed by the Toronto firm Moriyama & Teshima Architects.
The new building, whose shape is inspired by a manuscript and comprises seven columns symbolising the seven pens used to sign the union agreement, has a surface area of 2,000 sq m plus an additional 10,000 sq m of underground facilities housing the exhibition spaces and an educational centre.
The permanent exhibition of the Etihad Museum has been designed and assembled entirely by Empty and narrates the history of the UAE in the years prior to the formation of the federation of states, the moment and circumstances in which the union was officially established, and the achievements derived from such a historic agreement. Another part of the narrative is dedicated to the UAE Constitution and the rights, freedoms and responsibilities it confers on the citizens of the seven emirates.
From the exhibition architecture point of view, the aim was to create a dynamic and heterogeneous exhibition system with an attractive formal structure that would seamlessly integrate audiovisual media with the museum’s abundant interactive components while hiding the accessible technical elements. As a result, most of the elements are made out of Corian. For example, this highly resistant and thermoformable material enabled us to build an audiovisual “falaj” inspired by the traditional water channels used to irrigate fields in the Arabian Gulf.
The furnishings reference the geography and landscapes of the UAE and each exhibition area therefore has its own identity, enriching the overall itinerary. Architectural finishes such as those of the ceilings play a similar role in helping to shape this interior “landscape of landscapes”, which also features period photographs and objects that offer an insight into the key events of the UAE’s history.
With regard to textures and colours, the stone-like appearance of the Corian is offset by wood, used for example in special areas like the two small theatres as well as to clad pillars, creating a sculptural forest of trees.