Etihad Museum


This museum, which covers 2.5 hectares and includes new and restored buildings, tells UAE’s story from 1968 onwards. The museum outlines events from 1968 to 1974 and draws on the political and social circumstances of this period of UAE history. The project location has historical context, located adjacent to Union House, the location of the signing of the 1971 agreement between the Trucial States and hence the formation of the United Arab Emirates.

The entrance of the new Pavilion was designed in the shape of a manuscript with seven columns that represent the pen used to sign the declaration. The museum includes permanent and temporary halls, a theatre, educational and recreational areas and administration offices. The exhibition spaces are partly built underground and the area’s landscape was restored to its original 1971 condition. A new waterfront simulates the coastline in that period, used as a backdrop to the development.

Facade Lighting

The overall façade lighting design intent focused on revealing the Union House as the pivotal point of the architectural composition, as a way of expressing its significance in the history of the UAE. This was achieved by using cool white color temperatures, which represent the reflection of the moon, a fundamental element in Islamic culture. The Union House is therefore distinguished from its warmly lit surroundings. The simple architectural elements of this humble building were specifically highlighted, allowing it to stand out and gain the visual weight it deserved.

The façade lighting for the Pavilion emphasizes the historic significance of the museum, while maintaining the primary focus on the Union House through a balanced lighting exposure scheme. The folded paper shape as well as the tilted supporting pens were the key focus areas of the lighting design concept. The façade enclosure is washed in subtle blue light, reflecting itself on the mirror pools and creating a floating effect. The columns glow warmly and emerge from the interior as an inviting gesture to explore the exhibition and celebrate the historical manifestation.

The Minister’s Building, which acts as a prelude to the Union House, was lit with the same concept in mind, but using warmer tones. It represents the entrance to the development, welcoming guests and giving them a taste of what is to come.

The proposed lighting scheme for the Guest House had the double purpose of recreating a historical moment and presenting a heritage building as an exhibition element, representing history under a new light. The main intention was to keep the authenticity of its original look, while providing a second layer of lighting that situated it in a specific architectural context.

Landscape Lighting

The overall scheme focused on enhancing the visual connections between the different building components, using a unified lighting language and creating a consistent ambiance. The scheme was organized in two parts.

The Restoration Zone – The spirit and ambience of the 70’s was maintained by using the original fixture styles but with upgraded lamp technologies and optics. The lighting scheme is therefore updated in terms of performance and effects, but still recreates the original 1971 setting. Auxiliary light fixtures were added in some areas in order to achieve the required outdoor illumination levels for safety and security purposes.

The Development Zone – The landscape around the Pavilion was lit using contemporary elements and strategies to create a soft backdrop to showcase the building. This scheme merges smoothly with the adjacent areas by using similar finishes and color temperatures.

The shoreline water fixture is an attraction by itself. The narrative behind it was to project the stars onto the water, creating a background for the main axis and a final frame to the circulation sequence. A stimulating setting for visitors, providing discrete illumination and encouraging human interaction.

Internal Lighting

The internal lighting for the pavilion is based on a few, yet bold lighting strategies. Projectors concealed in the columns illuminate the ceiling, exposing the architecture and revealing the magnificence of the space, which can be admired from both inside and outside the building.

The back walls are grazed to render their texture, balance the brightness throughout the space and relate the mass to the exterior. Lastly, a series of bird inspired fixtures float above the mezzanine floor, filling the space with an inspiring visual element.