Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat Island Museums by 2017, Etihad Towers Wins Awards, Beirut’s Martyr’s Square

Big news — most of the Saadiyat Island museums are back on! After construction was put on hold for several years, there are now set dates: Jean Nouvel’s $500 million Louvre in 2015, Lord Norman Foster’s Zayed National Museum in 2016 and Frank Gehry’s $800 million Guggenheim in 2017. No word on NYU-AD’s new campus, Tadao Ano’s maritime museum or Zaha Hadid’s performing arts center (New York Times).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, seen here in 2010. / Image via TDIC and NYT.

Meanwhile the emirate’s Executive Council approved funding for a ton of new projects, including Saadiyat Island, expanding the International Airport and Khalifa Port, and building industrial areas in the Western Region and an auto city in Abu Dhabi. Most of the spending is on domestic projects, like housing, hospitals, schools and roads — plus Abu Dhabi’s metro and tram system (The National).

We had reported that the city’s metro is supposed to open in 2016, but that seems ambitious, and an updated timeline is scheduled for this year. The first phase of Etihad Rail — to transport sulphur from Ruwais — is funded with a $1 billion loan (The National).

The 'At 300' observation deck being fitted-out at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. / Image via Construction Week.

The airport continues to expand — passengers up 14 percent to 12 million, cargo up 10 percent (The National) and Al Bateen Beach is scheduled to open in March (The National).

The $1 billion Etihad Towers in Jumeirah by DBI Design was named the World’s Leading New Hotel by the World Travel Awards, and will have an observation deck at 300 meters high (Construction Week: first and second articles).

To improve sustainability, Abu Dhabi should look into banning plastic bags like many global cities have done (Atlantic Cities). Plus lecture at the Sorbonne-AD lecture on Arabic’s contributions to the French language (Zawya).

Elsewhere in the region…

The Bourj, early 1900's. / Image via Global Urbanist.

Fascinating three-part series on Beirut’s reconstruction over the past 20 years. Intriguingly, Martyr’s Square’s current form — of an open, public space — is a maidan, a traditional feature of Arabian cities. While the reconstruction is admirable — the downtown looks like 1920’s Paris — it’s also become a polarizing space, for the urban elite (Global Urbanist: First, Second and Third). As Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Manama’s Pearl Roundabout showed, these public squares are often flashpoints for democratic protests (Design Observer).

Watch out Dubai — Avesta is looking to Baku, the capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan, in building a 1,050 supertower on a chain of artificial islands in the Caspian Sea
(Arabian Business). Madinah, Saudia Arabia is to be redeveloped by MMM with improving its green space (Arab News), Atkins finished Oman’s $1 billion Medical City master plan (Arabian Business) and in Kazakhstan, Almaty’s new metro looks beautiful (Atlantic Cities).

Finally, a fascinating photo series on American Muslims (NYT Lens Blog)

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Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat Island museums delayed, Dubai’s tram, archaeology digs rediscovering old towns

If last week’s removal of the Guggenheim concrete bids sounded ominous, well it is…the whole Saadiyat Island museum project is now projected for a staggered opening, starting in 2013 or 2014. The Louvre is expected to open first. (The National, first and second article)

Saadiyat Island's massive museum projects are likely to be delayed. / Image via The National.

Not even oil rich Abu Dhabi is immune from the global financial crisis and plummeting real estate market. (Construction Week)

Even by Abu Dhabi standards, Saadiyat Island is a monumental undertaking by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which may look into partnerships for the $27 billion (!) project.

In transportation news, Dubai is starting construction on the new billion-dollar Sufouh tram, by Besix and Alstom, scheduled to open in 2014. It’ll travel from Dubai Marina through Media City and Knowledge Village, with 13 stops and capacity of 5,000 passengers/hour. (A second 4km would run from the Mall of the Emirates to the Burj Al Arab.) (Construction Week and The National)

And the upcoming Gulf Traffic Conference in Dubai is going to tackle traffic safety. (The National)

40 years of the UAE: Dubai and the Northern Emirates had the first roads in the UAE, before the country unified. Likewise, Abu Dhabi's early roads, including the first paved road where Al Maqta bridge now stands, cleared the way for the rise of the capital. / Image via The National.

Can you believe that the country’s first paved roads weren’t until the 1960s? It turns out that Abu Dhabi island is artificially one meter above sea level so the roads wouldn’t flood. (The National)

It’s too late to preserve the demolished historic structures in the coastal towns of the Western Region, but ADACH’s archaeological digs and GIS maps are recreating what life was like not that long ago. (The National and Abu Dhabi Week)

Former life in Western Region coastal towns. / Image via Abu Dhabi Week.

Finally, it’s good to see Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is increasing social media presence — now on Facebook and holding a student contest.
(The National)

Elsewhere in the region…
Oman’s southern port city of Salalah is expanding its sea-to-air freight connections, apparently it has the lowest transport times in the region. (AME Info)

Qatar is delaying the $3 billion West Bay metro system, which would connect Doha’s financial district to the Doha metro. (Construction Week)

Only 5 years until Yemen’s capital of Sana runs out of water. (Atlantic Cities)