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(all images YouTube screenshots by the author)

Robot dogs, humanoid giants, holograms, and laser lights. That’s what “the future” looks like, at least according to architectural renderings recently released by the United Arab Emirates for its impending Museum of the Future.

On Wednesday, Gulf News reported that construction has begun in Dubai on the $136-million museum. Nestled beneath soaring skyscrapers in the posh Emirates Towers area, its oval design is genuinely striking (even if it slightly resembles a cross between the Chicago bean and a NuvaRing). Poetry by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum repeats in patterns across its shiny exterior. Light enters the building through the perforated text, bathing visitors in glowing Arabic script.

The museum is meant to be much more than a pretty addition to Dubai’s architectural patrimony, though. At a press event, Sheikh Mohammed announced that it won’t just showcase prototypes, but will also develop them in special innovation labs — fulfilling its official motto, “See the Future, Create the Future.” The Sheikh explained, “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it. Here in the UAE we think differently. While others try to predict the future, we create it.”

That claim may sound like empty mumbo jumbo, but there’s apparently some real substance to it. The UAE government has proclaimed 2015 the “Year of Innovation,” expressing its desire that the country become “a major international destination for innovators.” It has been aggressively ramping up investment in technology, opening a co-working space for tech start-ups and sponsoring competitions like “Drones for Good,” which seeks to find humanitarian uses for the device. And the private sector seems to be following suit, with UAE telecommunications company Du recently partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Senseable City Lab to explore how technology can mold the future of cities.

“The world is entering a new era of accelerated knowledge and great technological revolutions,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “We aim to lead in that era, not to follow and lag behind.”

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

12 replies on “Dubai Is Building a Museum of the Future”

  1. Any word on how much work will be done by indentured servants?

    Also curious if their version of the future includes homosexuality, or will they be inventing new ways to punish gay people for their “crimes”?

    I am genuinely puzzled how Hyperallergic can report on anything in Dubai without mentioning their rampant human rights abuses.

    You’ll have to excuse me if I’m skeptical of any notion of “the future” from a country that follows Sharia Law.

      1. That is entirely possible. I checked with Wikipedia see if my understanding was correct, and I’ll grant that is not always the most robust source, I was given to believe that Sharia law is part of the judicial system of Dubai (though not the entirety), and that they employ Sharia courts. Perhaps you could clarify.

        My main point still stands.

          1. Then let’s put it this way, in ALL the places that it is practiced, it’s bad for human rights, women and homosexuals. Beyond the Shariah Law, the UAE has a horrible human rights record going back 30 years at least with regards to the imported labor force. So it’s not just Shariah Law, it’s also about the ethical compromises that every single project undertaken there—whatever the scale—undergoes on its way to realization.

          2. Hrag, yes, and in the present day U.S. we can actually conduct/moderate/be affiliated with a dialogue about things like that without being arrested by the law for disparaging language against our employer(s). The UAE, not so much, in fact.
            My point is that a lot of relevant discourse regarding the UAE gets brushed under the rug of ‘oh! shiny!”, and I do believe there’s a strategy in place to avoid a number of discussions around human rights and Shariah law, with bling effect (coupled with hubris) as a tactic. There is some truth to the idea that human rights and Shariah Law are not entirely compatible because “god’s laws are not up for modification for the 21st century”.

    1. Not everything is perfect in Dubai but then again, that’s not the case anywhere. Having said so, 96% of all workers in this region as well as India have chosen Dubai as their #1 city to work in. I am living here and I am part of a group supporting local workers so I can tell you they have a much better life than they had at home. And it’s not that I want to compare UAE with USA but have you checked lately about the rights in many states for gays over there? And then who is the one deciding what has to be accepted and what not? We should not try to impose our believe into others, should we? Doesn’t matter if this is related to sex, religion or other topics. Why can’t have a country their own way of living as long as people are not hurt?

  2. A museum of the future for a place with no future?
    Honestly, what would draw me to Dubai? Ever?

    Their principal industries are …
    What? Spending money?

    I cant fathom why anyone would go to Dubai when there is the whole rest of the planet to see? It strikes me as an endless shopping mall.

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