24 January 2009

Museums on an Island

Went to see an exhibition about the some projects that all you net savvy architects are very familiar with by now. It was about the museums proposed for the Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
This new development has been planned by EDAW and will house one of the most expensive collection of museums to be built anywhere. The masterplan itself is nothing impressive and continues the same sort of absurd development commonly seen in Dubai with golf courses and canals, but on the bright side most of this land form exists naturally and done not need insane amounts of Land fills into the sea.
The western edge of the upper model shows the area which will house the four big museums.

Here's another detail model of the museum edge.


The rest of the snaps focus on the four main museums on the island.

First the Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Jean Nouvel.

This one is probably my favourite of the bunch. The idea of its huge shading canopy -sort of like a tree- with a village of gallery spaces seems like a very interesting approach for a museum.

Though I am very much against buildings that look like microwave melted foam models I have to admit that if it is done well the next building will be no less impressive than the one my Nouvel - below the Performing Arts Centre by Zaha Hadid.
In the distance above the most restraint of the four museums - the calm yet dynamic Maritime museum by Tadao Ando.

Ando adds a much required sanity to the island with his Japanese simplicity : )
And the last project and probably most disastrous building yet planned for this region.

This monstrous Guggenheim is courtesy of Frank Gehry

To me this one is literally a pile of cr*p!! How I wish they would never built this project!!!!
All in all the Island of Happiness (which is the translation of Saadiyat Island) surely is a great opportunity for AbuDhabi to step out of the shadow of Dubai and try and make a name for itself. Sadly it chooses to play the same game of Absurdity as its more glamorous neighbour.

23 January 2009

Random Abu Dhabi

Here's a few random photos from Abu Dhabi - the capital of UAE

Below are a few snaps of what I think is probably the most significant buildings to be recently completed in the old part of the city (by old part I mean not on one of the many crazy islands coming up all around the city). This office building was designed by KPF.

A couple more random street shots
And the last two snaps are of the enormous Emirates Palace Hotel. Abu Dhabi's response to Burj Al Arab - well not quiet !!

06 January 2009

Sharjah - Museum of Islamic Civilization

Sharjah has long been known as the cultural capital of UAE and a few years back the city received the title of ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ by UNESCO. The city houses a good set of small museums. And unlike the proposed craziness of huge international franchise museums (Louvre, Guggenheim etc.) planned in neighbouring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the museums here seems very grounded in the city’s own (and some times its regional) history and culture.

One of the latest museums to open here was the Museum of Islamic Civilization which opened in June last year a few months before a very similar museum opened in Doha –the Museum of Islamic Arts (which I blogged last month).

Though the one in Doha is a much more ambitious project both architecturally and collection wise, this one in Sharjah is not very far in spirit. Like most things in this city it’s modest and simple.
The museum itself is housed in a structure that is very reminiscent of the main Souk of the town, one almost wonders if the building was in fact designed as a shopping mall and was then converted into a museum. However, its small collection of art work and objects from all over the Islamic world is quiet impressive. Though strangely quiet a few of them are just photographs of actual artifacts!
And when I went to see this museum it had a great temporary exhibition of Islamic art works from a private collection in Kuwait.

Here are a few photos from that collection.
My favourite piece in this collection was this (below) amazing Pietre Dure panel from Mughal India.

02 January 2009

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Firstly, wish you all a very very Happy New 2009!!!

Here's a few photos of the recently opened Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This grand mosque is surely the biggest in the country though I am a bit sceptic of the claim that it's the third largest mosque in the world (after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina). Based on sheer capacity to holder followers this house seems to far smaller than the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta; Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca; and Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.

There are 57 domes covering the outside yard and the main building as well and these are clad in white marble.

All the columns that surround the great courtyard of the mosque is decorated using the
Pietre dure technique.
However, I doubt that like great buildings of the past like the Taj Mahal this was done by hand. Because of the sheer no. of columns and the pace at which this mosque was built I think they must have used a combination of water jet cutting and milling machines to achive this great task.
Following is a photo of the great courtyard that can hold over 30,000 people.
As you enter the mosque you enter a strange entry hall, which is covered in marble bas relief in floral patterns that are quiet uncharacteristic of a mosque structure. Unlike other dominant Islamic buildings and mosques here the strict use of a geometric framework for all the patterns is noticeably missing. In my opinion it is the restrictions imposed by the strict geometric ordering that has always made decoration in Islamic religious buildings soo interesting!
Sadly this mosque is yet another victim of this country’s recent obsession with records. As quiet predictable it houses :

  • the largest chandelier in the world. There are seven imported chandeliers from Germany and are copper and gold-plated. The largest of which is 10 meters in diameter and 15 meters in height (this is in the central and main hall of the mosque which was closed at the time of my visit).
  • the "World's Largest Carpet" made by Iran's Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. This carpet measures 5,627 square meters and is also inside the main hall.
    You can see the same lack of order in the carpet design as on the decoration in the entrance hall walls! But what the mosque lacks in nitty-gritty it makes up in scale.

It is one of the few mosques in the country that is open to tourists of all religious orientation and one of the few instance were state money has been lavishly used on a ‘public’ building and is surely worth a visit if you happen to be around Abu Dhabi!

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