A $653m contract to build a local branch of France’s Louvre museum has been awarded to a joint venture including Arabtec, a construction group based in neighbouring Dubai and part owned by Abu Dhabi. Also involved in building the Louvre Abu Dhabi are Constructora San Jose of Spain and Oger Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Saudi Oger. One of three cultural institutions being built in association with western bodies, Abu Dhabi is now pressing ahead with the high-profile projects, which stalled during the financial crisis.
It will be interesting to see whether projects such as this will prove to be a draw to visitors when they open their doors from 2015 – although its vast oil wealth means Abu Dhabi will never be short of money to finance such projects, has the government got it right or will they need to encourage visitors in other ways?
The Louvre is due to open in 2015, followed by the Zayed National Museum – being built in association with the British Museum – in 2016 and a franchise of New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2017. Originally sure to start opening early 2014, following a lengthy public spending review by the Abu Dhabi government, the dates were put back.
Part of an ambitious development on Saadiyat Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi city, the museums which also includes high-end accommodation and a campus of the UK’s Cranleigh School catering for more than 1,600 students.
The Saadiyat project and other big infrastructure initiatives in the emirate were shrouded in doubt during the tightly held spending review, although most of the delayed developments seem to be going ahead again in some form.
Abu Dhabi is trying to establish itself as both an international cultural centre and a big tourist destination, although it faces obstacles ranging from competition from Dubai to official curbs on freedom of expression.