A parallel Worlds

Tuesday December 4 2007 / Art & Design

Star architects have been commissioned to build the world's most spectacular museums on an island just off the Arab metropolis.

In 1791, two events occured that don't seem to have much to do with one another -- at least at first sight. The Bani Yas, a Bedouin tribe, discovered a freshwater spring by the Persian Gulf and founded a small settlement that eventually became the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Several thousand kilometers away, in Paris, the constituent assembly of post-revolutionary France issued a decree nationalizing the royal art collection and announced the opening of a public museum in the Louvre. Now, 216 years later, the Louvre and Abu Dhabi suddenly have a lot in common. (writes Heiko Klass in Spiegel Online

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has commissioned no less than four of the world's most famous architects to create what promises to become one of the world's most important cultural destinations: Frank O. Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid.

As in Bilbao, where the Guggenheim museum turned a crumbling port city into an international tourist destination, Abu Dhabi's authorities hope the investment will transform the emirate into a cultural hub.

The museum is envisaged as one of the anchors of a new $27bn (£14.5bn) financial district, which is expected to include luxury hotels and golf courses, and several museums, a theatre and a park.

Abu Dhabi's national Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) promises "a cultural asset for the world" and a "beacon for cultural experience and exchange," in the words of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. The first tourist attractions will be available for viewing in 2012, and the entire project is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Suggested by
Ian Skellern