The Museum of the Future in Dubai. As a home for inspiration, the museum will help find solutions to problems to build a better world for tomorrow. Image Credit: Supplied

“The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it. It isn’t something you await, but rather create.”

These words by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, on his vision of Dubai, underpins the philosophy behind the Museum of the Future. The iconic landmark is set to open to the public on Monday, February 22. 

Traditionally, museums showcase people’s traditions, culture, history and fine art. They are a window to the past. The Museum of the Future in Dubai visualises the future of humankind. It takes us on a voyage to times ahead, times unknown. It’s also an attempt to imagine a future and embrace new possibilities.

A brainchild of the Dubai Future Foundation, the Museum of the Future is a rendition of the Foundation’s motto: imagine, design and execute. For that, the Foundation brought together storytellers, visionary technologists and artists from around the world. They gave life to a museum that provides a platform to find solutions to present-day challenges and helps design a better world. A brave new world.

Here’s what we know about the Museum of the Future, which opens on February 22.

What is the Museum of the Future?

The Museum of the Future is a mosaic of elements — from the virtual to the physical. It will be a platform to exchange varied and drastically different ideas, philosophies and spiritual learnings.

As a home for inspiration, the museum will help find solutions to problems to build a better world for tomorrow. It will be a place to learn and explore the possibilities and create something anew.

Some of the imagined futures presented in the museum are hopeful scenarios, but they acknowledge and reflect the present dangers and attempt to address them.

Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Assistant Product Manager

What’s the building’s unique shape?

The futuristic design of the gleaming torus-shaped structure is symbolic. The circular structure represents humanity; it sits atop a green mound representing the earth, and the void represents the unknown future.

The 77-metre-high structure bridges the past and the future, marrying advanced technology to traditional art forms. The building consists of seven floors and is characterised by the absence of columns inside, making its design a milestone in urban engineering.

A poem of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, rendered in the calligraphy of Mattar Bin Lahej, envelopes the facade of the stainless steel-clad building. The script on the low-carbon building is illuminated by 14 kilometres of LED lighting after dark.

What does the Arabic calligraphy say?

The Arabic calligraphy on the building consists of three quotes from Shaikh Mohammed. They are: “We may not live for hundreds of years, but the products of our creativity can leave a legacy long after we are gone.” “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it.” And “The future does not wait. The future can be designed and built today.”

Design and construction challenges

Dubai-based architectural firm Killa Design won the design competition for the museum in 2015. UK’s BuroHappold Engineering worked to turn architect Shaun Killa’s design into a building, and construction began in June 2016.

Building a torus-shaped structure without pillars was a challenge. They employed a parametric design and Building Information Modelling (Bim) to construct a technological marvel.

According to the BBC, parametric design is a process based on algorithms, which allows specific factors to be manipulated to alter the outcome of an equation. Bim is a 3D model-based technology that enables construction professionals to collaborate. It’s an efficient process that digitises both the physical and functional characteristics of a structure.

The museum’s steel framework, known as a diagrid, comprises 2,400 diagonally intersecting beams. Since the possible diagrid permutations are endless, BuroHappold wrote its growth algorithm to arrive at the optimal arrangement, a BBC report said. Work on the diagrid framework was completed in November 2018.

Built by man and machine, the museum — with its innovative design and engineering principles — reflects the future of Dubai. The construction was completed in 2022.

High praise from National Geographic

“The most beautiful building on Earth”, Shaikh Mohammed tweeted, announcing the museum’s inauguration. The National Geographic magazine named it among the 14 most beautiful museums on the planet. Other museums on the list include the Shanghai Museum of Astronomy in China, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the US capital, Washington, and the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain.

A timeline of construction in pictures

What’s inside the museum?

There’s no word on the objects and exhibits in the museum, but it is expected to feature topics such as the future of space travel and living, climate change and ecology, health, wellness and spirituality. They will be in various forms of exhibition, immersive theatre and themed attraction.

Three floors are designed like a film set from a future that you can inhabit, explore and interact with through distinctive immersive experiences. The first three floors will showcase the possible futures of outer space, ecosystems and bioengineering, besides health, wellness, and spirituality.

Other floors will present near-future technologies that will tackle challenges on health, water, food, transportation and energy. The last floor is dedicated for children to explore and solve challenges to become our “future heroes”.

Hamdan MOF quote
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Assistant Product Manager

What can you expect to see?

The Museum of the Future offers a combination of elements that prompt visitors to look beyond the present to a possible future through exhibitions, immersive theatre and themed attractions.

“The museum will explore the future trends and opportunities in science, technology and innovation. By making Dubai a testbed for emerging technologies, our aim is not merely to build another architectural marvel, but to build the foundation of tomorrow,” Shaikh Mohammed tweeted.

The Dubai Future Foundation sees the museum as a place “where history is made rather than displayed — where instead of absorbing the past, you help the future to emerge”.

According to the Foundation, the worlds you will encounter are not predictions but challenges interpreted by experts with visions of the future.

The Foundation takes visitors on time travel to 2071 to a reimagined future full of new possibilities. It’s a journey to a new world that will help reshape today’s world for the better.

How the museum will write the story of the future

Augmented reality, virtual reality and other cutting-edge technologies will take visitors on a journey into the future. “We are focused on the human story of the future,” Lath Carlson, executive director of the Museum of the Future, told the BBC. “We are looking at the big challenges that are going to be facing humanity, and the creative solutions that people might deploy to overcome them.”

Carlson warned visitors not to expect objects in cases with labels beside them. “In a lot of the main galleries, there will be no labels at all. It will be a completely immersive experience that engages the visitor as a really important contributor to the experience, rather than as a viewer of someone else’s work.”

Will there be futuristic gadgets on display?

Near-future gadgets will be on display, but much of the focus will be on technology that benefits humanity: to help feed the world, meet water needs, and make transportation sustainable.

What are the sustainability solutions showcased?

Many of the exhibits in the museum will stress sustainability. One floor of the museum will dwell on climate change, the effect of global warming on critical ecosystems. Other aspects will look at the possibility of solar energy collection in space and mining asteroids.

How the museum’s design helps sustainability

Sustainability drives the museum’s design and its functionalities. According to reports, the low-carbon building employs a variety of innovations and strategies to achieve sustainability. Besides using sustainable construction materials, there are systems to recover energy and water with the help of a parametric design, passive solar architecture, and low energy and water engineering solutions.

A smart irrigation system that uses weather data and sensors helps minimise water usage in the garden and park surrounding the museum. Excess water is returned to the tanks to prevent wastage.

The Arabic calligraphy also acts as windows to bring light into the museum during the day, while 14km of LED light keep the building aglow at night.

Museum of the Future-Updated
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

When will the museum open?

An enchanting new world awaits visitors when the museum opens its doors on February 22, 2022. An immersive experience will transport them across time and space to an imagined future. A reimagined future, the Dubai Future Foundation says.

The future of the museum

The Museum of the Future will also base Sheikh Mohammed’s ‘Great Arab Minds’ initiative, launched to find 1,000 great Arab minds.

It will hold science conferences and workshops on new inventions, trends and practical applications, thereby becoming a centre for futuristic science and technology.

The museum hopes to attract more than one million visitors a year.

Visiting the museum

Entry tickets to the Museum of the Future are available for Dh145. Children under 3 will be offered the child ticket free-of-charge and are welcome to explore the ‘Future Heroes’ area. Complimentary tickets are also available for senior Emirati citizens above the age of 60, people of determination and one accompanying caregiver.

Tickets for Museum of the Future are available for purchase through the museum’s official MOTF website.

Online bookings should be made before the preferred visiting time as each ticket holder will be allocated a specific timeslot during the museum’s opening hours (from 10am to 6pm all week long).