All Images and Text by Stephan Luecke. Copyright by desMena.
The new Maritime Museum for the Cultural District on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi by Tadao Ando.
Just off the coast of Abu Dhabi City located on nearby Saadiyat Island the new Cultural District will be home to a group of museums and pavilions with Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum being the first in a row of four mayor projects aligned on Saadiyat’s shoreline.
Between the rapidly progressing new Saadiyat Bridge and Zaha Hadid’s Performing Arts Centre the main building will stand out as a calm and simple structure with exposed concrete finish – a rather rare scene in the UAE.
As if eroded by the local winds the 108m long, 36 m wide and 27m high block is penetrated by a cave-like opening carved diagonal through the mass.
Mirrored in the gigantic water court that covers most of the 61000m² site the massive arch represents the two characteristic elements of Abu Dhabi city – water and land intertwined in groups of hundreds of natural islands surrounded by mangroves and beaches.
Visitors will approach the exhibition building through rows of trees forming a strong grid on the sites urban boundary while Andos contemplative architecture stands isolated in its opponent element – water and can only be reached underground following a passage that drops below the water feature.
On the inside the museum space comprising of 33300m² floor area unfolds its maritime character.
“Within the ship-like interior of the volume, ramps and floating decks guide the visitors fluidly through the exhibition space, echoing the theme of the museum and creating a dynamic gallery experience. Dhows 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. Below ground, there is a second space – the reception hall with an enormous aquarium. A traditional dhow floats over the aquarium and is seen from different perspectives.”