Cultural construction gets the go ahead in Abu Dhabi

UAE’s capital will be home to world’s largest Guggenheim Museum, located on Saadiyat Island

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By  Tim Wodd Published  July 15, 2006

The construction of a Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island will be the first of many cultural projects in Abu Dhabi. The largest of any of the five Guggenheim Museums built so far, the 30,000m2 project will be located in the Cultural District of Saadiyat — the 27km2 natural island that is being constructed in the UAE capital. The overall cost of the project was not revealed at its launch. Sulta bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Tourism Development and Investment Company, said that a number of global organisations are now being approached. “With the Guggenheim Museum in the bag, Abu Dhabi is in discussions with other international cultural icons to convince them to open branches in the emirate,” he added. Although an architect has been chosen for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the shape of Canadian Frank Gehry, the selection of a design team and contractor is still some way off. Oussama Rifahi, ADTA development director, believes the contractor will not make a start on site before the beginning of 2009. “First the detail of the design will have to be finalised, then tenders will go out, which is followed by the bidding process, then selection of the contractor, before construction work begins,” he said. “As for the contractor itself, I cannot say whether it will local or international. It would be good if it has cultural experience, but its selection will not be made until we are much further down the road.” William Mack, chairman of the Guggenheim Foundation, added: “No timetable for finding a contractor has been decided — it is all a little premature. First you have to confirm the design, then you launch the programme and then choose the contractor.” The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, will join a museum network that currently includes New York and Las Vegas in the US, Venice in Italy, Bilbao in Spain, and Berlin in Germany. Saadiyat Island will be developed in three phases until completion in 2008. Enabling works to clear the ground for infrastructure development of the island are now underway.

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