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The Expanding Emirate: Abu Dhabi Under Construction
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The Expanding Emirate: Abu Dhabi Under Construction

Picture of Elspeth Black
Updated: 6 December 2016
Saadiyat Island is undergoing a major transformation into a highly curated landscape. A dedicated cultural district will feature branches of major international arts spaces, projected to open 2014. Sitting among them is a New York University campus, which opened its doors to its first 150 students in 2009.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi | © Guggenheim

Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates is being transformed into a gigantic cultural district planned to be unveiled in 2020. The multi-billion pound project will include the Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi and a Performing Arts Centre. Once completed it will be the largest single arts and cultural project in the United Arab Emirates. The plan is intended to place the UAE at the centre of the world stage for arts and culture as well as to encourage greater tourism to Abu Dhabi.

The hugely ambitious project undertaken by the Tourism Development and Investment Company has attracted designs from celebrity architects, including Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid. For these prominent architects, the desert environment of Abu Dhabi gives the designers the unusual opportunity for experimentation on a grand scale without the usual constraints consequent to fitting their works into a developed urban context.

In addition to the Zayed National Museum, which celebrates the Emirate’s long maritime and political history, and other aforementioned art museums, art schools, hotels and golf clubs are planned. The TDIC hopes to diversify the island and expand in areas atypical of real estate developments in the area.

As well as investing in its cultural spaces, the Emirate opened its doors to the New York University campus in 2009. The permanent campus, also on Saadiyat Island in the company of the projected cultural district, will open in 2014. It offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture far removed from that of the original New York campus, whilst experiencing teaching of the same quality.