Dozens of projects in the pipeline at Abu Dhabi, including a Louvre and Guggenheim Museum on Saddiyat Island, have had their budgets and timelines confirmed raising cautious optimism among design and construction companies working there. Late last year with many of these projects under review, architects and builders scurried to keep crews working, shifting personnel to nearby projects in Saudi Arabia and Qatar as they awaited word on the disposition of their Abu Dhabi contracts.
While changes are indeed afoot at the Emirate and there is every indication that the news is good, shake-ups in the tourism development arm of Abu Dhabi, announced this week, indicate that the development climate is still unstable although seemingly moving in a positive direction. The good news is that the Abu Dhabi Executive Council has confirmed funding for a wide variety of projects as reported in The National, the local newspaper. Projects designated to re-start include a 700,000 sq m terminal for the Abu Dhabi International Airport and three major museums on Saadiayat Island, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, now slated to open in 2015; The Zayed National Museum, designed by Lord Norman Foster, which will open a year later in 2016; and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, which is targeted to open in 2017.
Whether its spin or realty, the Emirate has chalked up the project delays to the need to coordinate with the institutions backing the projects, namely as the Agence France, The British Museum and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, with which agreements are now finalised and to the complexity and magnitude of the Saadiyat Cultural District project in general, which the Executive Council said ‘will establish Abu Dhabi as one of the world’s leading tourism and cultural destinations’ and as such has to proceed in a proper direction with ‘careful planning to ensure the sustainability of the (cultural) institutions’.
Substantial work has been completed on the museums. Detailed designs have been finalised as well as foundation and piling work. And, at the cultural institutions themselves, comprehensive training and acquisition of art collections are underway.