Museum for Modern Arab Art Sharjah, New UAE Architecture, Dubai Architectural Images

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah

Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019: Architecture in Dubai Area, UAE design by AIDIA STUDIO Architects

2 Nov 2019

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art, Sharjah

Design: Architects AIDIA STUDIO

Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019 First Prize Winner, Tamayouz Excellency Award
Barjeel Foundation

Location: Sharjah, Dubai, UAE

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design
images courtesy of AIDIA STUDIO Architects

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah, UAE


There are three main drivers in the development of the design. The first and foremost is the art collection of the Barjeel Foundation, so the question we posed ourselves was, how to best present the artworks and to provide an atmosphere which is suitable for their display and conservation in the long-term? The second driver which informs the museum is the climate and atmospheric conditions of Sharjah.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

Having collaborated with Jean Nouvel for five years on the design and construction of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we know how big a challenge this poses on the visitor experience, so from very early on we focused on strategies to activate the exterior spaces through elements that could contribute to a larger argument for sustainability. We achieved this by imagining a beautiful lattice-frame wooden roof draping over the museum providing shade and diffused light into the courtyards.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

The roof works in tandem with the wind towers by funnelling wind which is then chilled by the water ponds at the base. Finally the third key element is the site and the adjacencies; located between a highway, a service station and a low density residential complex, we opted for an introverted experience, so we imagined a fortress with a monolithic perimeter wall which would reveal very little from the outside.

Once inside the visitor discovers a myriad of courtyards and passages with different natures and feel. The museum is not designed as an architectural object, the site and the surroundings would not justify such an approach, we have instead proposed a porous mass which we have meticulously carved to create courtyards, alleys and passages, intertwined with the galleries and rest of the programme. An immersive experience for the visitor to subtract himself from reality.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design


The galleries are organized as a circuit which unfolds around the internal courtyards of the museum, its intended as a journey which is experienced gradually. They are laid out below street level to shield the artwork from sun exposure and thermal gains and to control the amount of natural light coming in.

Filtered light is however introduced purposefully in the transition spaces between galleries letting the visitors catch a glimpse of the shaded exterior courtyards, water features and the base of the wind towers.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

Barjeel. (Wind Tower)

In honour of the Barjeel Foundation’s name, owners of the art collection, we decided to reinterpret the traditional wind tower typology reshaping it into a contemporary sculpture which not only serves as a cooling device but also adds value to the space. The wind towers work in tandem with the roof structure within the five courtyards of the museum, this way all outdoor spaces benefit from the effects of the wind enhanced by the water evaporation from the pools.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

The complex geometry of the roof shading canopy contrasts with the simple forms of the museum. Glimpses of the wooden structure can be viewed from the exterior, but their full beauty can only be experienced from within the building. Its geometry is inspired by the complex motifs of Arabic architecture and by the ancient Emirati weaving traditions.

The soft curvature of the funnels are made out of steam bent wood, another Emirati tradition well known in the ship building industry. Its purpose apart from creating a striking gesture is to shade the courtyards, cool down the atmosphere and refract the sunlight. We have chosen wood as the material due to its low emissivity, its interweaving layers can be fully experience from the roof top promenade.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

Museum for Modern Arab Art Sharjah, UAE – Building Information

Project Team:
Design: AIDIA STUDIO – Rolando Rodriguez-Leal, Natalia Wrzask
Instagram. @aidiastudio
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Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art, Sharjah, UAE images / information received 011119 from AIDIA STUDIO

Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019

Tamayouz Excellence Award announces the winners of its Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019

Tamayouz Excellence Award is proud to announce the winners of its Rifat Chadirji Prize, an annual thematic prize named after the prolific Iraqi architect and academic Dr Rifat Chadirji. Part of Tamayouz’s seven-category awards programme, the prize was held in partnership with Barjeel Art Foundation for its 2019 cycle.

This year, the prize sought proposals for a modern Arab art museum in Sharjah, UAE, to house Barjeel’s extensive art collection, which consists of artwork from across the Middle East.

The winning project is AIDIA STUDIO, which consists of Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask. Second place goes to SOLID, which includes Nader Moro and Sameh Zayed, and third place goes to Mohamed Hassan Elgendy. The Rifat Chadirji Prize also recognises a People’s Choice Award, which is bgiven to Cell Studio: Mohamed Sami Saeed, Tarek Ali, Mohamed Sarhan and Sama Abdelkarim, and another six honourable mentions.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

The winners were selected by Tamayouz’s jury members, who met in October 2019 at Coventry University in the UK. The judges this year were:

● Stephen Austin, head of School of Energy, Construction and Environment at Coventry University (the academic partner of Tamayouz); Coventry, UK
● Dr Rasem Badran, founder of Dar Al-Omran; Amman, Jordan
● Dia Azzawi, celebrated Iraqi artist; London, UK
● Claudia Linders, architect and dean of architecture and urbanism at Fontys Academy; Tilburg, The Netherlands
● Fernando Olba, principal of Fernando Olba Arquitectura + Urbanismo; Valencia, Spain
● Mandy Franz, senior associate at MICA Architects; London, UK
● Nahed Jawad, academic and principal at Nahed Jawad Design; London, UK
● Philip Michael Wolfson, founder of Wolfson Design; London, UK

The winning proposals and honourable mentions were selected from a shortlist of 20 submissions, which was released in September 2019, in total 190 entries from 44 countries. Selection of the finalists was based on the criteria set in the competition’s brief.

Commended designs were those that contextualise Sharjah’s history and cultural identity in a contemporary manner, and that were informed by local cultural heritage and environmental conditions. To read about the other finalists, visit Tamayouz’s website.

Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah UAE building design

Jury comments about the winning project

First place – AIDIA STUDIO (Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask); Mexico City, Mexico

“This project features elegant graphics and a beautifully thought-through analysis. It very cleverly interprets regional architectural, social and vernacular expressions. The roof, made of wood and based on a traditional Emirati weaving structure, generates a contemporary motif that naturally filters daylight and creates surprisingly high – and beautiful – semi-public spaces and landscapes, such as the sculpture route and walkway.

The woven quality of the roof further allows the walls to be dynamic, as shade patterns created by the sun’s changing position during the day dances across them. The walls therefore become a festive skin.

“Also, while the tower appears introverted, a corner boundary wall that is half-height opens the building to the surrounding context. This offers an element of respect and makes the building less intimidating.

“The contemporary reinterpretation and form of the original barjeel is also very successful. The design has a very consistent choice of materials in which the raw stone of the base has a strong connection with the landscape structure – it almost looks like a quarry where the spaces have been carved out. The light, transparent wooden structure gives the whole project a light-footed refinement. Behind the choice of materials there is also a well-thought-out installation concept.”

Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019 images / information received 011119 from AIDIA STUDIO

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