The Lifestyle

What's shaping up the Saadiyat Cultural District

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's new cultural district hosts these two museums which carry some of the most stunning pieces.

Words by Aneesha Rai in The Lifestyle · May 6th, 2018

Not far behind from Dubai, Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island is proving to be quite the cultural hotspot. Its eponymous cultural district is already home to the recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. Besides this, there are three more concepts coming to the island, namely: the Zayed National Museum - a museum dedicated to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, about the unification of the emirates as well as the UAE’s cultural connections across the world; The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi - a stunning contemporary art museum by Gehry Partners; a performing arts center designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid; and the Maritime Museum, a museum which will celebrate Abu Dhabi’s maritime heritage and the emirate’s long-term relationship with the sea. The building with its simple appearance, will combine space, light, and water both inside and out, seamlessly blending the building’s interior and exterior to ensure that the Arabian Gulf is, fittingly, the museum’s most stunning exhibit.

Manarat Al Saadiyat is a 15,400 square metre arts and culture centre, designed to bring the vision of the island to life through The Saadiyat Story. The venue also features four gallery spaces. This artistic venue houses Cultural Department Exhibitions with international collections from around the world.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi

Roof of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Launched in November 2017, The Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Pritzker prize-winning Jean Nouvel. Immaculately designed and inspired by Arabian heritage, the museum has a falaj-inspired water system running through it and a geometric lace dome inspired by interlaced palm leaves, thus creating an impression of shade and harnessing the light. The overall look is lacy and delicate. The dome’s complex pattern is the result of a highly studied geometric design, repeated at various sizes and angles in the eight superimposed layers. Each ray of light must penetrate the eight layers before appearing then disappearing, creating a cinematic effect as the sun’s path progresses throughout the day. Named the rain of light, this effect has been the subject of many models and mock ups over the years and is one of the defining features of the museum.

Once open, the museum’s permanent collection, as well as important loaned artworks from prestigious French institutions, The Louvre Abu Dhabi will form an art historical narrative taking the visitor from ancient times to the contemporary through 23 permanent galleries in 12 sequences. Designed as a museum city in the sea, with its contrasting series of 55 white buildings, including 23 galleries inspired by the medina and low-lying Arab settlements, a temporary exhibition space, Children’s Museum, a 200-seaterauditorium, a restaurant, a café, and retail space. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is nothing short of something out of ‘A Space Odyssey’, and that’s just part of its appeal.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is a museum of modern and contemporary art offering a transcultural perspective on art history, with a dedicated focus on Middle Eastern art. Through its collection, exhibitions, scholarly publications and educational programmes, it will help contribute to a more inclusive and expansive view of art history that emphasizes the convergence of local, regional, and international sources of creative inspiration rather than geography or even nationality for that matter.

The museum’s collection, which will span the 1960s to the present, will include site-specific commissions for both interior and exterior locations, including the iconic cones circling the museum. Surrounded by water, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will have spectacular views of the Saadiyat Cultural District and Arabian Gulf.

Frank Gehry’s monumentally scaled museum cones recall the region’s ancient wind-towers of yesteryear; ventilating and shading the exterior courtyards in a blend of Arabian tradition and modern design. Galleries are organised around the central atrium on four levels connected by glass bridges above. The museum will feature 12,500 sqm of gallery space and an additional 18,000 sqm of exterior exhibition space in the cones circling the museum.

The museum also will include art education facilities, archives, a 350-seat theatre (for a variety of events such as music recitals, dance and theatre productions, film viewings and performances), a library, a research centre, and more.