Not long to go before the capital brings the past to life…

A recent announcement by the cultural collaboration of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and Miral, has put the construction of the upcoming Natural History Museum at 65 per cent completion.

The project was only announced in 2022 so the fact that we’re two thirds of the way through is an exciting prospect indeed, and means the estimated the delivery date of 2025, is right on track.

Making history

You’ll find Natural History Museums in culturally-considerate cities across the world. They tend to deal, as the name suggests, in the history of the earth — with engaging exhibits charting biological and geological evolution. The Yin to Dubai’s Museum of the Future’s Yang. Natural History Museums often feature full-skeletal reconstructions of long-extinct creatures, such as the London museum’s famous ‘Dippy’ (the Diplodocus).

The Abu Dhabi incarnation will be located on Saadiyat Island as part of the cultural district, a network of world class museums, galleries and sites of cultural significance.

We Stan

We also know a little bit about some of the flagship exhibits, thanks to a cheeky pop-up preview held at Manarat Al Saadiyat in the launch year back in 2022. Chief amongst them are, a seven billion (fact check: That age pre-dates our sun) year-old space rock — the Murchison object.

It joins Stan, a mostly complete 39-foot-long, Dhs117 million, 67 million year old Tyrannosaurus-Rex skeleton — a fossilised relic of the notorious Late Cretaceous apex predator. And you might think placing a dinosaur next to an object similar to the one that allegedly wiped them all out ‘is a little close to the bone’. But they have had 66 million years to get over it.

Other museums OTW in Abu Dhabi

teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi

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Set for completion in 2024, 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. 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’. But what does that actually mean? 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.

Zayed National Museum

Once completed, the Zayed National Museum will represent nothing less than an architectural marvel, a fitting home for the inspiring story of our nation and its visionary founder. Located on Saadiyat Island, already the seat of so much cultural import, the breathtaking structure designed by Foster + Partners will include a 123-metre-high tower. The main gallery will be devoted to a collection of artifacts illuminating aspects of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the man, and his leadership journey the country’s unification, and beyond. There will also be gallery space devoted to exhibitions on Falconry and Conservation; Land and Water; History and Society; Science and Learning; Faith and Islam; and it will host the grand Sheikh Zayed Library. Although we don’t have a projected completion date, work on the building began back in 2019.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

Image courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP.

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.”

Images: Provided