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MEAN Design Unveils Plans for Sharjah Modern Museum

Meandering Arcades, is MEAN‘s proposal for Sharjah Modern Museum. The project is an exploration in rethinking the timeless architectural typologies in the region with a contemporary mindset.

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A novel, Contemporary, Regional Architecture

Our proposal ‘Sharjah Modern’: Barjeel Art Foundation Museum is an exploration in rethinking the timeless architectural typologies in the region with a contemporary mindset. Drawing on fractal tessellations, the team designed a modular building that provides spaces for meeting, dwelling and enjoying art. Taking notes from the tools of regional space-making with a contemporary design mindset; the building is a seamless integration of exterior to interior.

Facing the Challenges of the Site

The project utilizes triangular modules of limestone columns that are paired to compose an arcade of arches and stacked at varying heights to indicate various functions of the museum. The massing of the interior program is designed to adhere to the structural grid at the southeast corner of the site, stacking up to screen the gas station.

Shaded Green Terraces

The masses setback open towards the North-West, residential end of Al Tarfa Neighborhood making space for shaded green terraces opposing the highway. On the exterior, south end of the site, the building rises and forms a concealing gesture facing the highway.

A vehicular drop-off zone and underground parking access planned on the ground floor. The stone columns bloom to form petal-shaped vaults at the tops, assuring that all exterior spaces are well shaded.

The Central Lung of the Building: An internal Oasis

Moving through the interior of the building, the lobby seamlessly blends the outside arches with a double-height stone space that welcomes its guests gracefully with overlooking balconies and a spiral staircase. A central courtyard/ atrium hybrid garden that carves its way upwards throughout the entire building, towards an open skylight.

The courtyard acts as the lung of the building, drawing natural light and greenery, enjoyed at multiple levels through the balconies. By the design of its form, allows for a sustainable form of natural cooling. Stack Effect, the courtyard performs as a cooling oasis, inspired by the ‘Barjeel’ or ‘Malqaf’ evident in heritage buildings of the region.

A Building Designed around Art

250 artworks of artists from Pan-Arab World, were carefully selected and curated to be displayed within the Ground, First and Second floors. We chose the art based on the prominence of the artist and pieces and organized it based on the feelings and themes that the work invokes. In contrast to the lingering spaces around and inside the building, white galleries are clustered around the courtyard and designed to have minimal detailing and materiality, forming a somber, almost invisible backdrop for the artwork to be displayed.

The gallery spaces are designed as contrasting seamless, uninterrupted spaces, sequentially taking the visitor on a journey to experience the art. Architecturally, the gallery spaces are partially enclosed with freestanding walls designed to display the art with no doors or windows.

Allowing for maximal flexibility of the space, and inviting natural, diffused light to seep in from the central courtyard glazing. The offices are planned on the smallest massing at the most upper third floor. The offices open up to the shaded outdoor rooftop event space, which is accessible through a private staircase as well as the elevations.

Project Name: Meandering Arcades – Barjeel Art Foundation Museum

Architect: MEAN* Middle East Architecture Network

Type: Museum

Location: Sharjah, UAE

Year: 2019

Built Area: 18.320 Sqm

Status: Unbuilt

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