Although the news that the Abu Dhabi offshoot of the Guggenheim was alive and well only broke a couple of weeks ago, labor activists are proactively calling for an artists’ boycott until the Guggenheim Foundation addresses their concerns over working conditions in the Gulf state. The Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC), a collective of artists and labor activists, has been agitating for more equitable conditions for migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates since 2010. The group has sparred with the Guggenheim Foundation over its Abu Dhabi location several times, precipitating an occupation of the Guggenheim Museum on May Day in 2015 and the projection of shaming messages onto the building’s spiral in 2016. The GLC brought the Guggenheim Foundation to the negotiating table in 2015, but the foundation's Board of Trustees announced in April of 2016 that it would be walking away from any further discussions with the GLC, citing the group’s “shifting goals.” With progress on the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi slowed, or even stopped, the furor temporarily died down. Now that the project is actively moving forward again, the GLC has released an open letter to the Guggenheim, and any artists who would work with the museum. “We were inspired by the struggle for worker rights taking place by students and faculty around the construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus and asked ourselves what we as art practitioners could do to address potential labor abuses for the Guggenheim Museum’s planned Abu Dhabi branch. “What we asked was, in our eyes, quite modest. Before we agree to participate or include our works in such a collection, can you please ensure that workers are not abused and are paid fairly, that they are not indebted by recruitment fees, that they are given decent housing and living conditions, and that they have the right to address grievances or abuses individually or collectively? We also asked for an independent external monitor to be in place so that we have at least a modicum of objectivity in assuring these conditions are met. Only the last of these requests was met, and not in a satisfactory way.” The full statement can be read here. When pressed for comment, Guggenheim officials only told Hyperallergic the following: “Recent coverage of an updated timeline for the construction and opening of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was erroneous and was corrected by multiple media outlets several days ago. There is no construction on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, no contractor has been selected, and no timeline has been set.” It's unclear what exactly the Guggenheim officials are referring to. Their statement said that construction work was not ongoing, but the earlier Euronews interview with Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, did not say that construction was already happening, but that it would be starting "soon." While that article originally claimed a 2022 opening date, that was quickly amended. The officials did not apparently correct Armstrong's assertion that the Guggenheim Foundation is still actively pursuing the Abu Dhabi project.
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After a tumultuous series of ups-and-downs, work on the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is reportedly picking up steam. According to an interview with Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, given to Euronews at Abu Dhabi’s annual Culture Summit, the museum could open its doors in the next three-to-four years. The institution’s momentum had seemingly stalled in recent years. Although the project was first announced in 2006 and scheduled to open in 2012, it was repeatedly delayed. The original 2012 opening estimate came and went, as did the revised opening date in 2017, and after an interview with former director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Thomas Krens, it seemed the museum might be dead in the water. The 320,000-square-foot museum, potentially the Guggenheim’s largest outpost, is slated to open on Saadiyat Island, a ground-up cultural district that holds a number of institutions designed by big-name architects. That includes Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, which itself experienced a number of delays before opening in 2017. “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 told Euronews. However, he claimed that the project was “on track and on budget,” and that once construction was completed in four years, the Guggenheim Foundation would focus its attention on the fledgling museum over the next 10 years to ensure its success. As for programming, Armstrong envisioned displaying large-scale works from all over the world, mainly contemporary pieces from 1965 and onwards. That includes carving out space for work by younger, lesser-known artists, with "overscaled" pieces from artists such as James Turrell or Ernesto Neto being placed in the building’s upper levels. No exact opening date or new budget was given. AN has reached out to Gehry Partners for comment and will update this story accordingly.
Brought to you with support fromArchitectural heritage is something of an anomaly in the city of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Since 1950 the city has grown from 4,000 residents to nearly 1.5 million, many of whom are housed and working in miles-long rows of concrete tower blocks. The 18th-century Qasr Al Hosn castle stands as a rare historical monument in this remarkably modern city, and the local government just recently completed a decade-long architectural conservation program restoring and stabilizing its masonry walls. The Qasr Al Hosn was built by the ruling Bani Yas tribe in the 1760s as a coastal bastion defending the city’s fresh water well and regional trade routes. The walls and towers are built of coral and sea stone and are lathed in a render composed of burned and crushed seashells mixed with white sand and water. Rich in minerals, the render takes on a bright white and iridescent finish that glints under the sun. Apertures are located throughout the concentric rings of walls, naturally drawing ventilating gusts throughout the complex. And as a virtue of the thermal mass of the formidable walls, the sequence of courtyards is considerably cooler than the surrounding city.
masonry with a thick cementitious render and decorative layer of white gypsum, the castle was due for a significant restoration. The restoration of historic structures, especially those of major cultural significance, requires painstaking material and historical research. The Department of Culture & Tourism (DCT) deployed a team to “carefully remove strips of the modern render layer which enabled us to determine that a high extent of original masonry was still intact and to discover that the original render was still in existence in areas,” said Mark Kyffin, DCT Head of Architecture. “This enabled us to analyze the constituent parts of this material, under laboratory conditions, for replication and application in the ensuing remedial works.” With the information gathered by laboratory observation, the team developed a new render replicating the porosity and thermal qualities of the old. Research of preexisting masonry sections also provided insight into its original hand application, a process appropriated by the modern construction team. While the use of render shields masonry from the elements—think of it as a coated rainscreen—the condition of loadbearing elements determines the structural longevity of the building. The walls that surround the complex are just under two feet in width, with significant voids caused by internal stone deterioration. To fill these voids, the DCT set up a gravity-injected mortar grouting system. "Loose mortar was removed from the external facing masonry joints and temporarily replaced with cotton wool," said Kyffin. "This enabled the wall to be a sealed enclosure and prevented grout from seeping through the facade." The external cotton wool was removed once the internal grout had cured, with gaps in the masonry subsequently being repointed. Historical research also played a significant role in the conservation process. Researchers pored over photographs, diary extracts, and oral testimonies of those who lived in the building during the 1940s, gaining further knowledge of key building features. Abu Dhabi is surrounded by desert. For centuries, the city exclusively sourced its timber from an adjacent and expansive mangrove forest. The dimensions of internal rooms were dictated by the maximum height of the local mangrove forest; the tallest mangrove poles can measure close to twenty feet. In conjunction with the restoration of the Qasr Al Hosn, the Department of Culture & Tourism collaborated with Danish architecture firm CEBRA to landscape nearly 35 acres of open land surrounding the castle. Also unveiled in December, the design features polygon-shaped concrete formed to resemble the sun-baked earth and rolling water features that course pass shade-providing vegetation.After centuries of wear and tear, as well as the ill-thought coating of the original
A year after the Jean Nouvel–designed Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, a waterfront arts quarter with buildings from big-name architects, things aren’t entirely rosy. The Austrian steel engineering conglomerate Waagner-Biro, responsible for building the intricately latticed, double-layered dome over the museum, has reportedly declared insolvency due to their involvement in the project. Late payments and inflated costs on the approximately $90 million Louvre offshoot have forced Waagner-Biro to sell its subsidiaries in hope of remaining solvent. The 262-foot-wide dome is made up of almost 8,000 interlocking metal octagons, layered over each other in reference to the mashrabiya, a traditional Islamic sunscreen that shades while allowing air to pass through. The museum below the dome is a loose-knit collection of 23 gallery spaces that together form a layout closer to an open-air market typology than a traditional museum space. Nouvel has described the dome as “an oasis of light”—during the day, the sun filters in from above like starlight, and at night, the museum below causes the roof to glow from within. Waagner-Biro began in 1854 as a locksmith but has grown into a major player in architectural steel installation; the company constructed the spiraling roof of the Great Court in London’s British Museum and the dome of the Reichstag in Berlin. Unfortunately, after costs rose during the Louvre Abu Dhabi dome installation, Abu Dhabi refused to pay and forced Waagner-Biro to shoulder the difference. The firm’s daughter company, SBE Alpha AG, was declared insolvent on October 23 of this year and its financial woes have spread to the rest of the 1,300-employee company. Waagner-Biro has already sold its Waagner-Biro Austria Stage Systems AG subsidiary to Austrian entrepreneur Erhard Grossnigg for restructuring; the offshoot has handled stage engineering work at the Sydney Opera House and Berlin’s State Opera House in the past. While it remains to be seen if Waagner-Biro will be able to emerge from insolvency, that hasn’t been the only piece of bad news for the Louvre Abu Dhabi this week. Salvator Mundi, a portrait of Jesus allegedly painted by Leonardo da Vinci and sold for a record-breaking $450 million last November, has reportedly been feared as lost. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman purchased the painting with the intent of displaying it in the Louvre Abu Dhabi, but the September 18 unveiling date has passed without a peep from the prince. The fate of Salvator Mundi, whether it will be put on display in the new Louvre, or how it’s being cared for are now only known to the Saudi royal family.
Fentress Architects will design the United States of America’s pavilion at World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The winning design is based on the theme “What Moves You,” and will emphasize, “the power and diversity of culture, technological innovation in mobility, and commercial opportunity throughout the United States,” according to a statement from Pavilion USA 2020. Fentress’s design will play into the “dynamism of American culture,” and national values of “ingenuity, progress, and innovation.” The renderings from Fentress are yet to be released. “Working across the U.S. has given Fentress Architects diverse perspective on the attributes and attitudes that Americans share. We will coalesce these characteristics into a single architectural expression at World Expo 2020 Dubai, representing the entirety of the U.S. and its design prowess to an international audience,” said Curtis Fentress, principal in charge of design at Colorado-based Fentress Architects. The Fentress-designed pavilion will work with large and small firms from across the U.S., local citizens' groups from different states, and the U.S. and U.A.E. governments to tell a story about the U.S.’s role on the global stage. The exhibit and experience design will be curated by Michigan-based George P. Johnson Experience Marketing (GPJ). Dubai Expo will be held between October 20, 2020, and April 10, 2021, near Dubai emirate’s western border with Abu Dhabi emirate. American firm HOK is responsible for its master plan. The U.A.E. selected the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and the sub-themes Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. It is expected to draw over 25 million visitors to the city and be a major economic event. The Bureau International des Expositions is the organizing body behind the shows, which are held intermittently around the world, most recently in Milan in 2015 and Shanghai in 2010. Previous expositions have been occasions for spectacular, sometimes experimental architecture, as in Buckminster Fuller's dome for Expo 1967 Montreal and Kenzo Tange's pavilion for Expo 1970 Osaka. The shows have historically been venues for industries of various nations to showcase their abilities and visions. Expo 2020 is the first world expo held in the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia. The preparation and operation of the fair are expected to result in 277,000 new jobs in the U.A.E. and inject $40 billion into the local economy. Check out this link for more details.
British studio Foster + Partners has released a proposal for a futuristic hyperloop freight system that could one day ship cargo from Dubai to Asia and Europe. The renderings and accompanying video were produced in collaboration with Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One, and the resultant system has been christened DP World Cargospeed. Cargo would be autonomously loaded into autonomously driven pods that appear to closely resemble the passenger pods Virgin revealed in February, and accelerated up to 700 miles per hour using hyperloop technology. The electrically-powered pods are moved through tunnels that have had the air pumped out, removing any wind resistance. From the video, it seems that Foster + Partners is aiming for an integrated, multi-modal shipping solution. Cargo is unloaded portside and brought into the nearby hyperloop loading area, while trucks, autonomous shuttles, and drones are could be potentially used to handle last-mile delivery. Everything feeds into an electric ecosystem, with solar panels on the hyperloop’s tunnels (and station) feeding the movement below. The shipping program would be an outgrowth of Virgin’s partnership with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, and the 75-mile-long Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop stretch could be online as soon as 2020. BIG’s concentric transport hubs, one in each city, will eventually anchor the route and house autonomous Virgin shuttles. While DP World Cargospeed is currently nothing more than a few polished images, with Virgin preparing to lay hyperloop tubes in India, a cross-continental shipping network that latches on to the commuter system could eventually be in the cards. As the video’s narrator describes it, DP World Cargospeed would start off as a system for high-priority goods ordered on-demand, with the higher cost of shipping offsetting the higher infrastructure costs. Still, Virgin hopes that it can get the cost “as low as trucking, with the speed of air delivery”.
After more than four years of construction, Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open to the public on November 11. Images of the ambitious project, spanned by a 262-foot latticed, double-skinned dome, have been released for the first time ahead of the full opening. Joining Frank Gehry’s troubled Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and museum projects by Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando and other big name studios, Nouvel’s Louvre is the first completed building on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. The French architect expressed hope that the museum, sited on the wetland island’s coast, would pay respect to the surrounding environment as well as the cultural history of both France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “The Louvre Abu Dhabi becomes the final destination of an urban promenade, a garden on the coast, a cool haven, a shelter of light during the day and evening, its aesthetic consistent with its role as a sanctuary for the most precious works of art,” said Nouvel. Referencing Arab architectural traditions, the project’s radiating dome is composed of nearly 8,000 interlocking metal octagons layered over each other to form a perforated shading system. Shading visitors during the day and shining from below at night, Nouvel called the roof “an oasis of light.” Protected from the elements, the public spaces below will host a rotating selection of pieces specifically commissioned for the museum. Layering patterned partitions is nothing new for Nouvel, whose Burj Doha in Qatar similarly took advantage of the mashrabiya, an Islamic screen designed to keep occupants cool during the summer months. The galleries themselves are a collection of squat, white cubic volumes with ceiling heights that vary from room to room and an irregularly-spaced paneling design that permeates inside to the display areas. This “museum city” totals 23 gallery spaces across 6,400 square meters (21,000 square feet), as well as a children’s museum, auditorium, restaurant and merchandise shops. The floor tiling calls back to Ottoman-era mosaic design, including a “stone carpet” in one of the gallery spaces. The museum's first exhibition, From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, will open on December 21st and display 18th century artwork from the opening of the original Musée du Louvre in Paris alongside modern pieces.
In a podcast posted on March 21, former Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Thomas Krens, cast doubt on the near-future hopes of building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a project he helped set into motion in 2006. The museum, designed by Frank Gehry, was originally scheduled to open in 2012 and would be the largest branch of the Guggenheim to date. The project was one of several cultural institutions designed by the likes of Foster and Partners, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, and Tadao Ando as part of a larger plan for Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Construction of the Guggenheim has been delayed several times and, as of 2017, only Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi is near completion. In his podcast interview with In Other Words, produced by the art advisory firm Art Agency Partners, Krens states that he believes these delays are intentional to help the city gauge the reaction of locals to the new development. Because the plans for this new cultural hub were drawn up in more “naïve” times, Krens thinks this type of development is just something that can’t happen in the current climate. “The world financial crisis and the Arab Spring has changed the equation radically,” said Krens in the interview. “It may not be such a good idea these days to have an American museum…with a Jewish name in a country [that doesn’t recognize Israel] in such a prominent location, at such a big scale.” The potential for the museum to be seen as a target for terrorism was a fear that the Guggenheim team addressed from the beginning of the project, and something Krens views as more worrisome now. “If I were them [Abu Dhabi local authorities], I would say we’re not abandoning our mission… to building these institutions, but we don’t need all five of them up and running at the same time,” said Krens in the interview. He also alludes that perhaps, in the future, there may be a better opportunity for the development and for further “cooperation and coordination.” For now, it seems the project is still on hold, although not without hope. In a statement to The Art Newspaper, a representative from the Guggenheim reiterated their support for the project and their continued work to make it happen: “The Guggenheim Foundation remains committed to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and its transformative potential as a catalyst for exchange and for expanding the narratives of art history.” To find more information about the Saadiyat Island development, you can visit their website here. UPDATE 4/4/2017: The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority has provided this comment:
Abu Dhabi remains committed to developing an innovative cultural destination on Saadiyat Island for Abu Dhabi's residents and visitors. Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open this year, and together with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, we are unquestionably progressing with the development of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The programme and collection of the Museum have been progressing for the past years and we have recently launched The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence, the second exhibition of artworks from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority is continuing the development of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's curatorial narrative, collection and educational outreach with the expertise of the curatorial team to bring this museum to life.
The Bjarke Ingels Group has finished another one—this time in the Middle East. The Copenhagen- and New York–based architecture firm’s recently completed project in Abu Dhabi, a new cultural exhibition space called Warehouse421, just opened, prompting a celebratory three-day festival featuring live musical performances, a myriad of exhibits, and interactive workshops led by art and design professionals. The project, which was commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, an organization providing support for education, arts, and cultural initiatives, is part of the revitalization of the Abu Dhabi warehouse district in the port area of Mina Zayed. The new art hub, formerly a pair of tin shed warehouses, was upgraded to encompass dynamic art gallery spaces separated by a series of five verdant courtyards, representing an important vernacular element in Middle Eastern architecture and culture. Concrete floors and white-painted steel establish a neutral interior ambiance for the viewing of artworks. A perforated mesh skin of Cor-ten steel employs Arabian geometric patterns while also echoing the rusty industrial sheds that characterize the surrounding district. The Cor-ten steel protects an insulating layer of lightweight and efficient sandwich panels. Also featured is outdoor exhibition space, where local vegetation and urban furniture create an “artificial desert landscape.” Responding to public demand for a new primary exhibition venue in the capital city, Warehouse421 is set to become a new cultural destination. It will showcase a roster of gallery shows and public programs, setting the stage for creativity throughout Abu Dhabi.
Up-and-coming architect Frank Gehry recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss his Guggenheim museum under construction on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi. The eccentric or idiosyncratic or whimsical structure totals 450,000 square feet, making it 12 times larger than the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is defined by multiple cones that Gehry says were influenced by teepees because of how they remove hot air. The design is also supposed to evoke the domes of mosques around the Middle East. Although that's a bit harder to discern. On Saadiyat Island, Gehry's museum will be joined by other lavish projects from Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, Tadao Ando, and Jean Nouvel. These architects, and their clients, have faced scrutiny for the notoriously bad labor conditions in the region. But back in September, Gehry addressed these concerns in an interview with Architectural Record. In a statement, the architect's firm said, “Gehry Partners has been engaged in a substantial and on-going dialogue over many years now that has involved government, the construction industry, architects, project, sponsors and NGOs." Record added, "Gehry may be the first prominent architect to take steps towards labor reform on Saadiyat Island." If you like, give the video a look, but be warned there's a lot of self congratulations and opining on world affairs.
French Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel's design for Louvre Abu Dhabi has begun construction after a series of delays. The building's most prominent feature is a 180-meter-diameter dome. The design of the dome is culturally relevant as well as utilitarian. The shape is prominent in traditional Arabian architecture. As the Louvre Abu Dhabi website describes, it is “an emblematic feature...evoking the mosque, the mausoleum, and the madrasa.” The dome's expanse also protects the building and its visitors from the sun. Carefully formulated geometric apertures in the all-white structure allow diffused and dappled daylight inside the museum, while mitigating heat gain. Nouvel designed the dappled pattern to emulate interlaced palm fronds, which are traditionally used in Arabic countries for thatch roofs. Nouvel described his vision for the 64,000 square meter site thus:
"A microclimate is created by drawing on sensations that have been explored countless times in great Arab architecture, which is based on the mastery of light and geometry . . . a structure made up of shadows, of movement and discovery."Nouvel was awarded the design commission for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2010. It was originally meant to be completed in 2012. However, in January of that year, the Financial Times reported that after a "the conclusion of a government spending review led by Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, vice-chairman of the executive council," the Tourism Development & Investment Company in Abu Dhabi set the museum back 3 years to 2015. Set on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three art museum branches meant to shore up the area as a cultural hub within the United Arab Emirates. However, all have faced major delays and completion dates pushed years into the future. All renderings courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel.
After reviewing over 60 entries from around the world, The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has selected this year’s winners of its annual Best Tall Buildings. Regional winners from Canada, China, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates have been announced, while an overall winner will be revealed at the CTBUH 12th Annual Ceremony in November. Projects are recognized for their impacts on the development of tall buildings and the urban environment, and for sustainability. For the Americas, the winner is The Bow (Calgary, Canada) by Foster + Partners, a 780-foot-tall curved commercial tower, which curves toward the sun to capture daylight and heat. The bow-shaped design maximizes views of the Rocky Mountains. According to Juror Antony Wood, the building functions well from an environmental urbanistic perspective. Category finalists include Devon Energy Center (Oklahoma City, USA) and Tree House Residence Hall (Boston, USA). The top tower in the Asia & Australasia region was OMA's whimsical CCTV (Beijing, China). The distorted form of the building, which operates as Beijing’s state television headquarters, is the result of complex programmatic, planning and seismic requirements. Category finalists include C&D International Tower (Xiamen, China), Park Royal on Pickering (Singapore), Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China), and Sliced Porosity Block (Chengdu, China). Europe's mixed-use The Shard (London, UK) by Renzo Piano Building Workshop is another winner. The “vertical city” involves 25 floors of office space, three floors of restaurants, a 17-story hotel, 13 floors of apartments, and four observation levels. The structure rests at the core of a revitalized commercial district. Category finalists include ADAC Headquarters (Munich, Germany), New Babylon (The Hague, Netherlands), and Tour Total (Berlin, Germany). In the Middle East & Africa, Sowwah Square (Abu Dhabi, UAE) captures a win. The complex, which encloses the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange with four office towers and a two-story retail podium, utlizes a sustainable design method. Category finalists include 6 Remez Tower (Tel Aviv, Israel) and Gate Towers (Abu Dhabi, UAE). This year the CTBUH Board of Trustees awarded the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award to Henry Cobb, founding partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and the Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal to Clyde Baker, senior principal engineer at AECOM.