>>>The Louvre and the Guggenheim are sharing an island
Photo: TDIC

The Louvre and the Guggenheim are sharing an island

With four museums and a cultural centre designed by five Pritzker prizewinners, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is set to become a Mecca of art and architecture.
“A
successful city is a place in which as many people as possible have the choice to make of it what they want and need.” This is how Saadiyat Cultural District is presented, a place set to become the hub of cultural life in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. The project takes the form of an island, with a decade of planning and building works behind it, designed with the assistance of heavyweights from the architectural scene. Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster, Pritzker prizewinners, are getting to work in Abu Dhabi, to make this young city into a benchmark for culture – and new architecture – at a global level.
Two thirds of the Louvre Museum are covered by the dome, which measures 180 metres.
Photo: TDIC

On terra firma

Unlike other projects that have been built out of nothing or on artificial islands, Saadiyat is a natural space. Covering 27 square kilometres, it is expected to accommodate homes for approximately 145,000 people.

One of these symbols will be the Louvre Museum. The legendary Paris gallery has chosen Saadiyat Island to set up its third location (the second is in Lens). This project, designed by Jean Novel, is scheduled to open in late 2016. The most unique feature of the building is its dome, which simulates interlinked branches that allow light to filter through, creating a curious pattern of shadows. Underneath, the history of civilisation will be told, split into four different periods: archaeology; the medieval era and the birth of Islam; classical period from Humanism to Enlightenment; and modern and contemporary art.
The Guggenheim Foundation knows a lot about expanding: New York, Venice, Bilbao and now Abu Dhabi. Designed by its head architect, Frank Gehry, the building will house an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art (with emphasis on the Middle East). The cones on the building are inspired by the old ventilation towers used locally. They create shade and manage ventilation naturally, without forgetting aesthetics or Gehry’s signature style. It will open in 2017, although several exhibitions have already been held. The first, Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, was used to present the first sixteen works acquired for the new venue.
Beyond being a cultural destination, Saadiyat Island has several kilometres of beach.
Photo: TDIC

Saadiyat connection

The island is near the Abu Dhabi financial district: twelve kilometres by motorway or ten by overground train. It has three bridges to connect it to neighbouring islands.

Another Pritzker prizewinner ‘establishing’ himself in Saadiyat is Norman Foster, who won in 1999. Zayed National Museum is the work of his studio, Foster + Partners. Located in the heart of the cultural district, this museum pays homage to sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding president of the United Arab Emirates. It will be a space dedicated to the country’s history and culture, in addition to the transformation it has undergone in recent years. Five towers, which will act as solar chimneys, comprise the project that is most respectful of the environment of all the projects that inhabit the island.
Zayed National Museum will be surrounded by different plantations.
Photo: Zayed National Museum
The fourth pillar of Saadiyat is the Performing Arts Centre, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. The objective is to attract leading figures from theatre, dance and music to Abu Dhabi. This project is part of the second phase of development of the Cultural District. The Maritime Museum designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando is also pending construction. And, of course, he is also a Pritzker prizewinner.

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