Guggenheim Plans Architectural Haven in Abu Dhabi

Event: ENYA Networks | Guggenheim Young Collectors Council
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.27.07
Speakers: Min Jung Kim — Director of Strategic Development, Asia; Robert McGary — Project Manager, Guggenheim Museum
Organizers: AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee; Guggenheim Young Collectors Council

Saadiyat Island

A string of starchitect-designed musuems makes up the Cultural Master Plan of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi

Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Guggenheim Museum has not only reinvigorated Bilbao, Spain, creating a “Bilbao Effect” with its Frank Gehry Partners-designed museum, it has had an impact now sought after by arts organizations worldwide, including the Guggenheim itself. Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is the next target of cultural development for the museum, aiming to create a critical mass of art in a field of iconic architecture. By 2012, the Guggenheim expects completion of museums designed by Frank Gehry Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, and Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA, not to mention a biennale park and educational facilities as well.

Saadiyat Island is a natural island adjacent to Abu Dhabi City. Currently, there is nothing there but sand — a blank slate. Gensler is master planning the island comprising six districts. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is working with the Guggenheim to master plan the Cultural District featuring the east-west coastline.

At 10,000 square meters, the smallest of the planned museums is the Maritime Museum designed by Ando. Inspired by the wind, boats, and sails, it celebrates the area’s pearling and fishing history by featuring a central reflective pool, hovering dhow boats, and a café under a waterfall. Moving east along the shore, the Performing Art Centre designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, sited at the center of the island, will be the island’s largest building. Its organic shape is formed by the intersection between the island’s central axis and the curve of the shoreline. Theaters are stacked to take advantage of city and sea views.

Ateliers Jean Nouvel will take advantage of the water by providing access to the Classical Museum (operated by the Louvre Museum) both by land and sea. A large protective dome will feature motifs that filter light and heat. Boxy volumes reference an archaeological excavation, apropos for a classical museum. At the eastern-most edge, Frank Gehry Partners’ Guggenheim Abu Dhabi juts into the Persian Gulf. With four levels of courtyards, galleries radiate inward from large to small, inspired by wind towers. With over 20,000 square meters of exhibition space, this Guggenheim is expected to be 40% larger than Guggenheim Bilbao.

For the biennale park, 19 pavilions designed by a range of firms from Asymptote to Greg Lynn Form will speckle the promenade among the large museums. The educational facilities, to be run by Yale University, are yet to be determined. A competition is currently underway for the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, which will be located at the center of the island, on axis with the Performing Art Centre. The shortlist comprises 13 firms including: Bernard Tschumi Architects and Eisenman Architects; Foster + Partners; Hans Hollein; Shigeru Ban; and Snohetta.

The AIANY Emerging NY Architects (ENYA) invited the Guggenheim’s Young Collectors Council (YCC) to the Center for Architecture to discuss the project which both groups follow closely. Presented by Min Jung Kim, director of strategic development, Asia, and Robert McGary, project manager at the Guggenheim, this event was the first ENYA Networks program, teaming up local emerging professionals to discuss common interests in an informal setting. A reciprocal program is being planned. This program also marked the first collaboration between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and AIANY since they announced the partnership to provide discounts to their members. AIANY members can redeem a 15% discount on membership to the Guggenheim. For more information, see “AIA Members Receive Discount off Guggenheim Memberships,” Around the AIA + Center for Architecture, e-Oculus, 05.15.07.