Adapt­able Abu Dhabi

The art of di­ver­si­fy­ing the emi­rate’s econ­omy

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rose Dykins

When you are given a blank can­vas, you can set your imag­i­na­tion free, ”reads a phrase from the video at“The Saadiyat Story ”ex­hi­bi­tion at Abu Dhabi’s Ma­narat Al Saadiyat mu­seum. Scenes flash by of Emi­rati ar­chi­tects and land­scap­ers hard at work de­vel­op­ing Saadiyat Is­land, fol­lowed by clips of tra­di­tional mu­si­cians per­form­ing in con­tem­po­rary venues, and idyl­lic im­ages of baby tur­tles crawl­ing across pris­tine sand with lux­ury beach re­sorts in the back­ground. The mes­sage is clear – Abu Dhabi has big plans for the fu­ture, but not to the detri­ment of its an­cient cul­ture and di­verse en­vi­ron­ment along­side the Ara­bian Gulf.

Though there have been sig­nif­i­cant de­lays to start­ing con­struc­tion, the de­sign of the emi­rate’s three ma­jor up­com­ing mu­se­ums – all of which will be lo­cated in Saadiyat’s cul­tural district – re­flect this ethos too. The Jean Nou­vel-de­signed Lou­vre Abu Dhabi will have a domed roof with tra­di­tional Ara­bic pat­terns cut into it, al­low­ing scat­tered light into the space be­low – the hotly an­tic­i­pated gallery is due to open its doors in 2015.

The five steely tow­ers that pro­trude from the Nor­man Fos­ter­de­signed Zayed Na­tional mu­seum – each one curved to mimic a fal­con’s wing – will rep­re­sent the five pil­lars of Sheikh Zayed’s vi­sion for his coun­try, and will be sur­rounded by a lush park, a tes­ta­ment to the late pres­i­dent’s pas­sion for pre­serv­ing the nat­u­ral land­scape. The venue will present ex­hi­bi­tions about Emi­rati cul­ture, and will open in 2016.

Lastly, the Guggen­heim has been de­signed by Frank Gehry and is mod­eled on bara­jeel (Ara­bian wind tow­ers), echo­ing the cool­ing sys­tems of tra­di­tional hous­ing. A sur­real-look­ing struc­ture com­posed of ir­reg­u­lar sil­ver and gold shapes, it is set to have its grand open­ing in 2017.

The heavy in­vest­ment in art and cul­ture on Saadiyat is part of Abu Dhabi’s push to at­tract a greater num­ber of tourists. “We are def­i­nitely see­ing a pos­i­tive shift to­wards cul­tur­ally in­clined trav­el­ers who are look­ing for high-end ex­pe­ri­ences, ”says Jasem Al Dar­maki, deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cul­ture Author­ity (tcaabud­habi.ae/en). “The cul­tural seg­ment has a defin­ing role to play when it comes to sus­tain­abil­ity.”

Al­though the names “Lou­vre” and “Guggen­heim ”have been taken, these mu­se­ums will not just be ex­ten­sions of the Parisian and NewYork in­sti­tu­tions, but gal­leries in their own right with their own col­lec­tions that they have sourced. The rea­son these brands were adopted was to in­di­cate the cal­iber of the in­ter­na­tional art­work they will house and, hope­fully, to mark Abu Dhabi out as a must-visit des­ti­na­tion.

While there are teams of cu­ra­tors in both Abu Dhabi and Paris work­ing on ac­quir­ing a per­ma­nent collection for the UAE’s Lou­vre, it’s the Emi­rati team that has the fi­nal say. It’s also a firm pri­or­ity to make sure that Emi­ratis are staffing and leading the mu­seum

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