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Mon 12 Mar 2007 10:24 AM

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Top four reveal designs

The world's most famous architects unveil plans for UAE museums and arts centres.

Four of the world's most renowned architects unveiled their designs last month for the new museum and performing arts centre on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.

Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid have all presented their designs for the new development, now on public display at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Zaha Hadid is designing the Performing Arts Centre; Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Jean Nouvel, the Classical Museum and Tadao Ando, the Maritime Museum.

The 320,000 ft² Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will have four storeys of central core contemporary galleries laid out around a courtyard. Two more rings of galleries will span out from the core. The third ring is for larger galleries and will be built like a raw industrial space. Gehry said: "It was clear from the beginning that this had to be a new invention. The landscape, the opportunity, the requirement, to build something that people all over the world would come to and the possible resource to accomplish it, opened tracks that were not likely to be considered anywhere else."

The Performing Arts Centre, a 62m high building will house five theatres with a combined seating capacity of 6,300. Hadid explained: "As it winds through the site, the architecture increases in complexity, building up height and depth and achieving multiple summits in the bodies housing the performance space."

Saadiyat's natural surroundings were the inspiration for Nouvel's Classical Museum. This structure will be covered with a glass dome made of a web of different patterns interlaced into a translucent ceiling which will allow light to diffuse through. Nouvel said: "The island offers a harsh landscape, tempered by its meeting with the channel, a striking image of the aridity of the earth versus the fluidity of the waters.

"These fired the imagination towards unknown cities buried deep into the sands or sunk under water. These dreamy thoughts have merged into a simple plan of an archaeological field revived as a small city, a cluster of nearly one-row buildings along a leisurely promenade."

Inspiration for Ando's Maritime Museum is taken from Abu Dhabi's natural surroundings, landscape and maritime traditions. The ship-like interior will have floating decks and a reception hall with a large aquarium to represent a dhow floating.

Describing the design, Ando said: "Dhows will float over the voids of the interior space and help create an intense visual experience by relating objects to one another and to the museum architecture as a whole."

The museums are expected to open under a phased programme starting in 2012. Admission to the exhibition at Emirates Palace Hotel is free and open 10am-10pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

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