In Abu Dhabi, new ambition and dark underside

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In the popular imagination, Abu Dhabi has always played cautious older brother to Dubai, its free-spending, deal-making sibling in the United Arab Emirates. But now, as Dubai struggles to recover from the stunning collapse of its real-estate market, Abu Dhabi -- the capital of the UAE and its wealthiest member -- is finally ready for a turn in the spotlight.

This weekend, in Calendar’s Arts & Music section, I’ll finish my two-part report from the UAE with an in-depth look at two of Abu Dhabi’s most ambitious architectural and urban-planning projects: the eco-community Masdar City (left), which aims to be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city, and the cultural district (above) on Saadiyat Island, which will include Frank Gehry’s newest Guggenheim outpost and a branch of the Louvre by Jean Nouvel.

My goal: to use the pair of projects as a lens to examine Abu Dhabi’s newfound ambition -- and the power that comes with being able to finance its own projects while credit remains tight around the globe.

Along the way, we hear some naysaying from one of Masdar’s own planners and examine the dark underside of the emirate’s generally placid political surface.


Read the full story here.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Top: Saadiyat Island Cultural District. Credit: Tourism Development & Investment Company. Below: Masdar City. Credit: Foster & Partners

Related: Dubai development may be down, but it’s not out

Photos: Development, Dubai-style