6 cultural mega projects coming to Abu Dhabi
Incoming additions to the capital’s culture club…
Saadiyat Island could easily get by on looks alone. With its rugged sun-bleached beaches, turquoise surf, dolphin and turtle inhabitants and a vibrant gastronaut quarter, it’s a very easy place to fall in love with at first sight. But its beauty goes deeper than that. The ongoing Saadiyat Cultural District project is curating a network of museums, galleries and heritage sites every bit as noteworthy as the priceless collections contained within them. Places of learning, places of appreciation and awe, places that colour the past and celebrate the future.
The latest marvel to open its doors in the district represents a genuine beacon of love, tolerance and peace. Abrahamic Family House holds within it places of worship for the three Abrahamic religions.
Once finished, Saadiyat Cultural District will be one of the most densely packed, globally-relevant cultural centres in the world. If you’re curious about what’s coming soon, these are all the confirmed constructions currently underway.
What new museums and galleries are coming to Abu Dhabi?
Set for completion in 2024, teamLab Phenomena is a collaborative effort between DCT Abu Dhabi, Miral and teamLab — and the result, as you can see from the renders, looks set to be an engineering masterpiece. It’s currently under construction in the hive of megaproject activity that is, Saadiyat Cultural District. The architectural marvel represented by the building is more than skin deep. The futuristic looking space will stretch across a 17,000 sqm gallery area and is billed to become the ‘home of infinite curiosity’. It’s a pretty cool concept, the collections within will be curated around a theme of ‘environmental phenomena’ and ‘offering new perspectives on the world’. The true genius here though is that the exhibits will be shaped by the changing environment, and like their organic inspiration, grow and evolve mimicing the subject matter. Each piece will be designed to respond to its specific local environment within the teamLab Phenomena building, and the interactions it encounters. This constantly changing virtual world means that every visit, by every guest will yield a different experience.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
On track for completion in 2025, the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum will add a jagged smear of swoon to the Saadiyat Cultural District skyline. True to the spirit of Guggenheim (and conceived in collaboration with Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation), the plans for the building — cut a contemporary, unconventional, but singularly beautiful design. As outside, so within. Inside you’ll find 28 galleries across a 11,600 sqm expanse, there’s also an additional 23,000 sqm of exhibition spaces contained within the distinctive cones and terraces attached to the building. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will exhibit a collection of modern and contemporary art with a special focus on pieces from the West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia (WANASA) region. The museum has been tasked with providing a platform for artists from the WANASA area, commissioning works from artists at the spear’s tip of creative innovation, and illuminating how “the interconnected histories and cultures” have helped shape our world. Speaking about the project, H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi said: “The museum will also play a civic role through its mission to spark wider interest in global modern and contemporary art, fostering diversity and inclusion in a meaningful cultural exchange. As we move forward with our plans, it is crucial to recognise the impact of this museum in realising our vision for the Emirate’s culture and creative industries.”
Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences
Louvre Abu Dhabi represents the cultural epicentre of the emirate, but after a truly astounding piece of news announced by local master developers, Aldar — it might soon represent the epicentre of your living room too. Once complete, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences by Aldar will be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts. Included within the structure will be Le Salon Détente — a lounge for residents that will feature art curated in consultation with the experts at Louvre Abu Dhabi; a 12-seater Cinema Privé for private theatre experience; a wellness centre – Spa Bien-être which will of course feature a gym, sauna rooms, spaces for yoga and meditation; and there will also be an indoor kids’ playroom, called, appropriately, the Creativité Room. It’s all part of Saadiyat Grove, a 242,000 square metre, Dhs10 billion development which will also include retail and entertainment attractions, other residential properties, two news hotels and co-working spaces.
Zayed National Museum
Once completed, the Zayed National Museum will stand as an architectural marvel, a fitting home for the inspiring story of our great nation and its visionary founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004). Located on Saadiyat Island, the seat of so much cultural import, the breathtaking structure designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster, of Foster + Partners. The Zayed National Museum was conceived to exist as a blended-use space, a public and civic building — a hub for discussion and learning, celebrating the rich and tapestried heritage story of the UAE, and its connection to the wider world. Expect engaging exhibits tracing the UAE’s journey to becoming a nation of influence, from ecosystems forged over millions of years to the region’s first human settlers arriving around 200,000 years ago, and then on to the modern era — where trade, development and prosperity have paved the way to a uniquely bright future.
Natural History Museum
Abu Dhabi’s Natural History Museum will be the fourth museum of the Saadiyat Cultural District (after Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, and the Guggenheim), and is due to open its doors on Saadiyat Island in 2025. In addition to engaging exhibits curated to illuminate the universe’s 13.8 billion years of origin story, the site will also include a scientific research centre ‘that will undertake studies in zoology, palaeontology, marine biology, molecular research and earth sciences’. The project was announced by Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, and promises to ‘help find solutions for the future of our planet.’ We also have contextual confirmation on two of the flagship objets d’awe — Stan, a 67 million year old tyrannosaurus rex skeleton; and the seven billion year-old Murchison Meteorite. We’ve heard a rumour that this year, there will also be a preview exhibit of a stegosaurus skeleton for 2023.
We now know that Saadiyat Grove will play a large part in the look and layout of Saadiyat Island island, a blended leisure, commercial and residential project that looks to be linking (or close enough) the individual culture mega projects and the beachfront entertainment district of Mamsha Al Saadiyat. The important numbers we have so far are that the launch date is set for some time in 2023. There’ll be a ‘Town Square’, more than 70 retail stores, a gym, cinema, offices, and 50,000 sqm of dining space. Aldar’s website describes some of the aesthetic experiences you can expect, saying “interactive artworks and digital murals surround you”. Louvre Abu Dhabi residences will also be part of the project. Once complete, there’ll be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artifacts.