2008 - Ongoing | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sana Al-Nour

The Glass Shell acts as a daylight and airflow redirection device, reflecting light through its geometry and the properties of the outer surfaces and distributing air as part of the aircirculation system, while simultaneously creating a calm, luminous coloured volume over a central space.

The sculpture – subtly evocative in its colouring and fluid surface form is intended to create a calm and welcoming space for arriving passengers as well as a focal point in the vast departures space.

Suspended within a circular void between the two major spaces of the airport, from the day-lit upper, departures level the Light Shell appears as a subtly glittering form, gathering and distributing light into the void below and reflecting the activity around it, acting as a centralising focus.  It also prevents a direct visual connection to the lower level across the customs boundary.

From the arrivals area below, the shell reveals its dual character: the outer surface creating a focal halo of light around the void, while the inner surface creates a still, central volume full of the colour of the desert sky.

The form has also been modulated by the requirements of the airflow from the upper space to the lower. The void in which the form hangs is an integral part of the design of the internal airflow of the whole airport and therefore the lower portion of the sculpture must smoothly deflect the air flowing down through the void at ceiling level. Several forms were proposed and tested with CFD (computerised fluid dynamics) tools to determine the ideal airflow characteristics.

The structural form is a delicate and efficient helical net suspended between two rings, which stabilizes, and is held apart by, a tall central mast.  The bottom of the mast is supported by ties to a central ring which is attached to the perimeter of the void.  The form appears to hover in the void between the floors.

Curved surfaces of laminated glass, with an internal layer that combines a reflective pattern on the outside with sky-blue on the inside are attached to the cables, thus creating the skin of the sculpture.  The distinctive form of the glass panels is derived from the triangular form of the grid, transformed by a slight curve in the edges of the panels, producing a fluid, rippling surface of glass leaves.

Clear connections between the ancient fascination with geometry in the Middle-East, and the most advanced structures, form-finding and glass technology, as well as references to the water, light and sky of Abu Dhabi, will create welcoming and positive local associations for passengers using Midfield Terminal.

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Renderings: KPF (left) and Picture Plane (right)

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Section drawing: KPF (left) and Dynamic airflow diagram: ARUP (right)

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Artificial lighting model photo (July 2014): Giant Eye Photography (left); on-site installation (Dec 2017): KPF (right)

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Image: Giant Eye Photography

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Rendering: Picture Plane (left) and model photograph images: C|L (right)

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Image: Giant Eye Photography


Midfield Terminal Complex,
Abu Dhabi International Airport,
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Lead Design

Carpenter | Lowings


Department of Civil Aviation,
Abu Dhabi, UAE


KPF – London, UK (Building Architects)
ARUP – London, UK (Structural Engineering,
M & E Engineering, Artificial Lighting)
Seele – Middle East / Austria
(Fabrication & Installation)


2008 - ongoing