masterplan to open a large cultural playground will come to fruition in
2018. Despite being the capital of the
UAE, Abu Dhabi has always been overshadowed
by its glitzy neighbour Dubai, a
destination where year long sunshine, shopping and a variety of entertainment
has made it so popular. For years, Abu
Dhabi has been keen to offer tourists to the UAE
something different and discovered the major void in the country was culture
and history – a huge pulling power for potential tourists. An island dedicated to culture and learning
was the answer and Saadiyat Island
was born. The 27 square kilometre island
will have beaches, golf courses, 29 hotels, marinas, villas, apartments for an
estimated 150,000 residents. The island
will be renowned for being the cultural hotspot of the UAE and its main
attractions will be the world famous and first ever Louvre museum outside of
Paris, the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, the Sheikh Zayed National
Museum, a maritime museum and a performing arts centre. The New York
University (NYU Abu Dhabi) is
opening a study-abroad campus on the island, expected to open by 2013.
Island will be linked to Abu
Dhabi city by two causeways, one a rail system the
other a 10 kilometre highway making it just a five minute drive from Abu
With the focus of attention being much on Dubai over the last 5 years, Abu Dhabi has sometimes been forgotten, but it is beginning to grab the headlines in its own way. This is not by building the biggest or best, but by wowing the tourists and investors in a different way. Abu Dhabi will no doubt become the cultural centre of the Gulf and depending on how you look at it, the Middle East. Although Abu Dhabi does not have the history that is normally associated with culture, it does have the money to buy in the culture, and that is how it will stamp its mark on the world.
Saadiyat Island is a big feature of how Abu Dhabi will transform itself. It is an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, and translates as 'Island Of Happiness'. The island is close to the main part of Abu Dhabi, and can be seen from coast. The project is being phased to be fully complete by 2018 with a spend of $27bn.
Abu Dhabi Tourism Development and Investment Company are quoted as saying: “A premier island destination as well as a modern, integrated residential community, Saadiyat will eventually be home to an estimated 150,000 residents with a full compliment of leisure and tourism facilities, as well as civic and cultural amenities. Saadiyat will be linked to Abu Dhabi City by two iconic causeways, one of which will operate a light rail system and a 10 kilometer long highway with bridge, making it a mere 5 minute drive from the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi and close distance to Abu Dhabi International Airport.”
Saadiyat will be divided into 7 distinct districts The main district which is central to how Saadiyat will be perceived and how Abu Dhabi will start to be transformed is The Cultural District. The Cultural District will house some major cultural institutions designed by internationally renowned world class architects with Biennale Park setting with pavilions designed to host international art and cultural fairs and events. The Cultural District will have a city-facing quayside, another 7-Star hotel, some exclusive villas, retail shops of all kinds, harbours and green parks. The Cultural District will feature two international big pulls, The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and The Louvre Abu Dhabi which have put Abu Dhabi on the map since they were announced in 2006 and 2007. In addition there will be three further focus points: The Performing Arts Centre, The Sheikh Zayed National Museum and The Maritime Museum. New York University (NYU Abu Dhabi) is opening a study-abroad campus on the island, expected to open soon and by 2012 at latest.
The other districts are: Al Marina District, a business area with luxury residences, hotels and entertainment and leisure facilities; South Beach which will be beachfront development focusing on Saadiyat as a family destination; The Wetlands, an eco friendly area containing a golf course and villa residences; Eco Point, containing boutique eco-hotels; Saadiyat Beach, designed to be an international tourist destination, Saadiyat Beach will contain a championship golf course designed by Gary Player as well as 11 kilometres of natural beaches; and finally Island Lagoons. Waterside residential area that will contain a large variety of upscale waterfront residences balanced with shallow lagoons which will provide a haven for local marine and bird life.
Plan Abu Dhabi 2030
Of course, the transformation of Abu Dhabi is not just about Abu Dhabi. After numerous false starts on talk of small scale changes to Lulu island and the like, the Government of Abu Dhabi has unveiled “Plan Abu Dhabi 2030: Urban Structure Framework Plan”, a comprehensive plan for the development of the city of Abu Dhabi that will guide planning decisions for the next quarter of a century. This is whole scale thinking on a new level for Abu Dhabi, and builds on Sheikh Zayed’s vision of transformation. We are not just thinking about the changes coming a few years, this is establishing Abu Dhabi for the rest of the century, and laying a foundation of a new forward thinking city.
The Government has now announced the establishment of a new Urban Planning Council to oversee the implementation of the plan and the further development of urban planning policy. Plan Abu Dhabi 2030: Urban Structure Framework Plan has been created to deliver upon the vision of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for the continued fulfillment of the grand design envisaged by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the ongoing evolution of Abu Dhabi as a global capital city.
Through policy statements, the plan specifies land uses, building heights and transportation plans for the entire metropolitan area of Abu Dhabi. Under the plan, the city is projected to grow to over three million people by 2030. As such, the plan provides for large new areas of Emirati housing, inspired by the traditional family structures of the local community, and a diverse mix of affordable housing options for all the citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi. The overarching principles of Abu Dhabi’s urban planning process are as follows:
1. Abu Dhabi will be a contemporary expression of an Arab city, which has people living, doing, and thriving in healthy supportive proximity to each other.
2. Abu Dhabi will continue its practice of measured growth reflecting a sustainable economy, rather than an uncontrolled growth.
3. Abu Dhabi will respect, be scaled to, and shaped by the natural environment of sensitive coastal and desert ecologies.
4. Abu Dhabi will manifest its role and stature as a capital city.
5. Abu Dhabi’s urban fabric and community infrastructure will enable the values, social arrangements, culture and mores of this Arab community.
Abu Dhabi is on a journey. The next phase of that journey begins now.