“Approaching the design of the museum for Abu Dhabi made it possible to consider options for design of a building that would not be possible in the United State or in Europe. It was clear from the beginning that this had to be a new invention. The landscape, the opportunity, the requirement, to build something that people all over the world would come to and the possible resource to accomplish it opened tracks that were not likely to be considered anywhere else. The site itself, virtually on the water or close to the water on all sides, in a desert landscape with the beautiful sea and the light quality of the place suggested some of the direction.”
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by internationally renowned American architect Frank Gehry, is an experiment in inventive 21st-century museum design. The building defines a new approach to the museum visitor experience and presents an innovative vision for viewing contemporary art in the context of a desert landscape.
Currently under development, the new 450,000-square-foot museum is situated on a peninsula at the northwestern tip of Saadiyat Island adjacent to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Surrounded on three sides by the gleaming waters of the Persian Gulf, the building site also serves as a manmade breakwater configured to protect the island’s pristine north beach zone.
The Gehry concept for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi features permanent-collection and special-exhibitions galleries; a center for art and technology; a center for contemporary Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern culture; an education facility; a research center; and a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory. This museum will be the Guggenheim Foundation’s largest facility.
Inspired by expansive industrial studio spaces, the museum design reflects the large scale at which many contemporary artists work, and presents new gallery layouts unlike conventional museum spaces. Clusters of galleries in varying heights, shapes, and character, allow for curatorial flexibility in organizing exhibitions at dimensions that have not previously existed. Evolving from several main cues, clusters of galleries connected by catwalks center around a covered courtyard. Additional vertical clusters of galleries pile on top of the central circulation creating a combination of vertical and horizontal spaces for exhibition organization. The design also incorporates sustainable elements appropriate for the region including natural cooling and ventilation of covered courtyards derived from the concept of traditional wind towers found throughout the Middle East.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is the largest museum in a series of cultural institutions planned as part of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, which will serve the world as a destination for the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of culture through the arts.
On a barren island on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, workers have dug the foundations for three colossal museums: an $800 million Frank Gehry-designed branch of the Guggenheim 12 times the size of its New York flagship; a half-billion-dollar outpost of the Louvre by Jean Nouvel; and a showcase for national history by Foster & Partners, the design for which was unveiled on Thursday. And plans are moving ahead for yet another museum, about maritime history, to be designed by Tadao Ando. – read more from NYTimes