Grandest Guggenheim planned for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is set to become a global cultural destination with the announcement that internationally acclaimed architect, Frank Gehry, will design a new Guggenheim Museum for the UAE capital.

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By  Monika Grzesik Published  August 3, 2006

Abu Dhabi is set to become a global cultural destination with the announcement that internationally acclaimed architect, Frank Gehry, will design a new Guggenheim Museum for the UAE capital. No design plans have yet been released for the museum, however it has been revealed that at 30,000 sq metres the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (GAD), will be the largest Guggenheim worldwide. There is no doubt that with Gehry as appointed architect for the project; the region can look forward to an exciting landmark design. Known for his firm belief that ‘architecture is art’, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect has continually shattered architectural conventions. His celebrated Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao perhaps gives some hints as to the pioneering level of design that could be expected in Abu Dhabi. Gehry clad the Bilbao museum’s unique undulating curves in titanium panels. A stunning effect is provided by the highly reflective qualities of the metal finish, which is extremely sensitive to changing light conditions. Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Authority says: “When the museum, made of titanium, glass and limestone, opened in 1997 it was instantly hailed as the most important building of its time. Just as Bilbao established a new level of design excellence, Gehry’s GAD design brief is to push the boundaries of his own architectural practice and set the benchmark for museums in the 21st century.” There is no doubt, however, that design excellence will not be the only motivation behind the establishment of the GAD. Conceived as part of an economic redevelopment plan for the city, the establishment of the Guggenheim Bilbao has succeeded in creating an iconic identity for Bilbao. The singular economic and cultural impact felt in the wake of its opening in October 1997 has sparked an increased awareness of the powerful force that architecture can wield. The prospect of drawing a worldwide audience will be an attractive one for Abu Dhabi. Due for completion in five years time, the GAD will be devoted to modern and contemporary art. The museum will form its own major collection of art as well as exhibiting works from the Guggenheim Foundation’s global collections. The GAD will be built in the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, a natural island lying 500 metres offshore from Abu Dhabi which will also become home to a national museum, classical art museum, maritime museum and performing arts centre. It is said that architectural distinction will be a defining feature for all the major new structures comprising the island’s cultural district.

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