In one of the galleries of Dubai’s newly opened Museum of Future, near the start of its futuristic exhibits, sparkles in lavender-green neon the ancient Chinese proverb, written in three languages, Arabic, English and Mandarin: “Ancestors plant trees/descendants take advantage of the shade.
The writing on the wall is clear both literally and figuratively. Given the multiple pressing challenges facing our planet today, it becomes all the more paramount for today’s generation to recognize and address these growing crises in order to protect the planet for the future. This is a task that must undoubtedly be a collective and concerted enterprise.
The Museum of the Future, whose soaring and arching presence in stainless steel etched with Arabic calligraphy sits in the heart of Dubai’s business district, focuses on harnessing the lessons of our present to build the future, inviting spectators to participate through a very inclusive approach.
Using a variety of virtual and augmented reality, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction installations and displays, the museum takes visitors on a journey into the future through the framework of five chapters, suggesting the idea of an overarching narrative that unfolds.
Wait a minute, you’re in Dubai 2022; the next day you are in the first chapter: a space station on the edge of the galaxy, OSS Hope, in the year 2071, exploring how humans are at the forefront of space technology. (That chosen date, almost 50 years in the future, incidentally, also marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the United Arab Emirates.)
Chapter 2 takes visitors to the Healing Institute, with the first section set in a dazzling digital recreation of the Amazon in Leticia, Colombia. They then discover the “Vault of Life”, an immersive illuminated installation composed of a DNA library of 2,400 species, carefully selected from millions of species to catalog the world’s incredible biodiversity, as well as a laboratory of experimental species, all designed to compel viewers to consider the impact of climate change. Subsequent chapters explore other iterations of the future, such as a body-mind calibration in the “Al Waha” chapter; how we might access today’s emerging technologies for tomorrow’s gain in “Tomorrow Today”; and, finally, “Superheroes,” which focuses on young people who are already thinking about solutions to the climate crisis.
“The Museum of the Future is unlike any other conventional museum,” Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, which runs the government-funded museum, said in an email interview. He described the space as a “living museum” that “will be constantly renewed, improved and enriched over time”, an aspect deliberately reflected in the flexible nature of the museum’s interior architecture, a fluid, multi-storey space. and pillarless that is highly adaptable and open to interpretation for future programming.
Considering the appearance of iconic museums in nearby Abu Dhabi (the Louvre and the future Guggenheim) as a way to signal the country’s renewed desire to experience and explore culture, science and art , the arrival of the Museum of the Future “constitutes an unprecedented opportunity for a new generation to be part of the future and all its aspects”, according to Belhoul. Part of this involved the commitment of the conservation team of local and international artists, designers, scientists and futurists from around the world to provide a platform to design solutions to global challenges.
The “Today Tomorrow” section, for example, takes as its point of reference the question posed by the influential architect Cedric Price in 1966, “Technology is the answer but, what was the question?” More than 50 exhibits show how technology has been essential in shaping our future, including prototypes and current products focused on areas such as waste management, environment, food safety, agriculture, irrigation and urban planning.
Whether it’s discovering Notpla, a biodegradable material that aims to replace single-use plastic packaging, or permanent carbon dioxide storage methods that would limit the amount of emissions entering the atmosphere, the exhibition presents the multiple and diverse research carried out in different parts of the world. While other sections focus more on viewers’ imaginations and senses, “Today, Tomorrow” stands out not only for effectively drawing attention to today’s most pressing environmental issues, but also to present how technology connects the transition from abstract ideas to tangible and accessible ideas. forms to create workable solutions.
While the Museum of the Future said it had welcomed many visitors since its opening at the end of February (the museum refused to provide attendance figures to ART news), Behoul emphasized that it’s about more than “just a visitor experience. It’s a place where great minds come together to design and shape the future.
How exactly that will pan out remains to be seen, but some of the museum’s early lineups indicate it’s not just about plushies. Aiming to be a place for discussion and debate, the museum has so far hosted a series of “Future Talks” with innovators, scientists and prominent figures from major industries on a wide range of topics. In the second “Future Talk”, Osama Khatib, director of the Stanford Robotic Lab at Stanford University, explained how our oceans hold the answers to critical existential questions and how humans and robots can work together to navigate the oceans. . The third Talk saw Alex Kipman, Vice President of Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality at Microsoft, explore the future and potential of the metaverse.
As well as having a research publishing arm, the Museum of the Future will also serve as the home of the Great Arab Minds Fund, a five-year initiative, with funding of AED100 million ($27.2 million) of the Government of Dubai to create “the largest movement in the Arab world designed to seek out outstanding talent among Arab scientists, thinkers and innovators in key fields, aiming to highlight the region’s leading thinkers and inspire young people by their example,” according to a press release.
The fact that all of this is housed in a central location in Dubai further reinforces the type of investment this new institution has received. Look no further than the architecture of the Museum of the Future, which is a physical embodiment of the museum’s philosophy, according to its architect, Shaun Killa, who described it as pushing the “absolute limits of design, technology and construction technology”.
The viewer’s first visual encounter with the museum finds their gaze drawn to the striking elliptical void that forms a central aspect of the museum’s exterior. The asymmetrical look of the museum therefore gives the impression that the building is in dynamic motion, as if moving forward, a fairly literal embodiment of the museum’s purpose of traveling into the future. “What this void represents is what we don’t know about the future,” Killa said. “People who search for the unknown become the inventors and discoverers of the future who ultimately [will] constantly replenish the museum.
Taking its own calls to action on climate change seriously, the museum is also a low-carbon project, with passive solar architecture and low-energy and water-consumption engineering solutions with built-in renewable capabilities built into its design.
And to ensure maximum visibility for the museum, given that it is nestled within Dubai’s dynamic, undulating skyline, the 252-foot-tall museum sits on a green plateau that at its tower is enveloped in 100 plant species native to the United Arab Emirates. The presence of this green plateau creates an additional layer to make the museum an urban park, allowing visitors to sit and walk through the museum, engaging with the structure in both a spatial and an urban context.
The facade also features three quotes from Dubai’s current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid bin Maktoum in a 3D engraving in classic Arabic calligraphy by Emirati artist Mattar bin Lahej, and large CNC computer robotic arms were used to repair each of the 1 024 of the facade. polished stainless steel panels. At night, the 8.7 miles of programmable LED lights illuminate the calligraphy, making it a spectacular visual addition to downtown Dubai.
Killa described the calligraphy as “windows into the museum”, as a means of outwardly presenting the Sheikh’s vision for the future, both regionally and globally. One of the Sheikh’s quotes perhaps best embodies the museum’s mission and vision: “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it and execute it. It’s not something you expect, but rather something you create. If the museum continues to develop and respond to this notion through multiple lenses and approaches in its future exhibitions, it certainly has the potential to help create the future we so urgently need right now.