Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Set to Break Ground

More than a decade after it was first announced, Frank Gehry's sculptural Guggenheim Museum looks set to begin construction in Abu Dhabi.

The long-awaited Guggenheim Abu Dhabi may finally come to fruition. Although the project halted in 2011, it's back on track, on budget, and construction is set to begin, according to Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

Digital renderings of the design showcase unique, sculptural towers and horizontal and vertical galleries.

"It's a big building, parts of it are quite complex, and it should take a little bit of time to put together as it's also quite large," Armstrong said of the project. Once construction is underway, the museum will likely take four years to complete. 

Announced in 2006, the museum will be built on Saadiyat Island, just offshore of the city of Abu Dhabi. It is owned by Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) and managed by the New York–based Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. 

Frank Gehry designed the museum on a slice of land surrounded by water. "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," Gehry told

The museum will be surrounded on three sides by water, and it will serve as a manmade breakwater to protect the beaches

Its experimental design will "create an innovative vision for viewing contemporary art in the context of a desert landscape," according to the Guggenheim website. At 320,00 square feet, it will dwarf Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim New York

Unconventionally shaped galleries will dominate the 130,000 square feet of exhibition space, offering varying heights and layouts to exhibit contemporary art. The museum will host permanent collections, special exhibitions, an education facility, archives, a library, a research center, and a conservation laboratory. 

The collections will focus on Islamic and Middle Eastern work, and the design of the building is inspired by traditional Middle Eastern architecture, including covered courtyards derived from the concept of the traditional wind towers found throughout the region.

The museum will be the centerpiece of the island's new Cultural District.

The museum is part of the U.A.E.’s efforts to attract more western tourists to the city, but those efforts have been hampered by human rights concerns, which have delayed the construction of the museum due to alleged mistreatment of foreign migrant laborers employed to build it.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be part of a cultural district on the island that includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, and the planned Zayed National Museum, designed by Lord Norman Foster and Foster and Partners. No completion date has been set yet.

Related Reading: 13 Iconic Buildings Designed by Frank Gehry


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