Dubai’s newest museum is a film set from the future

The striking structure has the audacity to imagine life 50 years later.
by Justin Harper

To build a new tourist attraction in Dubai, you have to create something pretty spectacular—given the city is already home to the world’s tallest building, largest mall, and deepest swimming pool, among many other accolades. The Museum of the Future is its latest awe-inspiring structure, and will likely become another major visitor attraction for the emirate. Not only does it look stunning (it has been described as the most beautiful building in the world), but it is also a symbol of cultural significance and the country’s ambition to become a technology hub.

(Read more: Asia’s first global museum of Asian modern visual culture)

Despite serving as a museum, nothing old is on show. It might be more aptly described as an innovation lab, as it is filled with technology and designed to be a meeting place for entrepreneurs, scientists, pioneers, and inventors.

Al Waha (The Oasis in English) is a sanctuary from digital life.

The Museum of the Future officially opened its doors on Feb 22 this year, a date chosen specifically as it’s a palindrome (the date reads the same forwards as backwards). It marked the end of a nine-year journey for the 77-metre-high structure, and I was keen to get a closer look at this shining architectural marvel.

Due to the Museum of the Future’s low location in Dubai’s skyline, it isn’t so easy to spot. The Burj Khalifa is more than 10 times its height at 828m.

But as you enter Dubai’s financial district the shimmering sculpture resembling a giant eye is hard to miss. The closer you get, the more imposing it looks, as if it’s watching you.

Even the lobby of Dubai’s Museum of the Future looks straight off a film set.

Close-up, you can make out Arabic calligraphy written across the 1,024 stainless steel panels that adorn the building’s exterior. These are excerpts from poems written by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE, and rendered in the calligraphy of Mattar bin Lahej.

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

The museum is a symbol of cultural significance and the country’s ambition to become a technology hub.

The number of panels is also significant as there are 1,024 bytes within a kilobyte (not 1,000, as most people think), which is another nod to the city’s ambitions to be a tech hub. Given Dubai’s desert location and sweltering heat, you will want to get inside the air-conditioned museum quickly.

Rather than a traditional museum focusing on the past, parts of the museum depict life in 50 years (to coincide with the UAE’s centenary). It is spread across seven floors and has no columns or corners.

Thankfully, there are three elevators though, and they have been created to make you feel like you are leaving the earth’s orbit, with images showing the journey to a fictional space station.

Exhibit OSS Hope is named after the UAE’s Mars orbiter.

When you arrive at the top, you will find yourself in an interactive space station named OSS Hope. Your face is scanned and displayed on an astronaut hologram set to take part in a series of roles, including one as a Mars colony ambassador to Earth.

Back down to Earth, other highlights include a digital Amazon, which creates a real-life rainforest experience. The Vault of Life, with thousands of different species illuminated in 3D holograms, is also worth a visit.

Here, you can create your own new species, or genetically modify endangered or extinct ones.

A DNA library of thousands of species encourages visitors to repair the damages of climate change.

Overall, the museum is a unique glimpse into the future and what could be possible in the decades ahead, for the UAE and the world in general.

The museum’s creators say each floor is like a “film set from a future that you can inhabit, explore and interact with”. With the array of jetpacks, robotic dogs, holograms, drones and driverless cars, it’s hard to argue with them.

The only thing it needs now is a Guinness World Record.

(Read more: Two Michelin-Starred Chef Tom Sellers Does a Pop-up at National Museum)

This story first published in The Peak Magazine.

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