With its domed top and intricate meshwork, the looks like a delicate spaceship, but it’s decidedly earthbound. Well, more like seabound. Conceived as an extension of Saadiyat Island by lead architect Jean Nouvel, the museum couldn’t get under way until contractors blocked off a section of the sea and drained all the water. (The pumps ran for six years.)
Once the buildings were near completion, the team waterproofed the exteriors—then tore down the seawalls. Now the salty waves of the Persian Gulf lap against the sides, reflecting beams of light that shoot through the perforated dome. “There are surprises every day,” says Hala Wardé, one of the architects. “It looks like vibrations on the white walls.” The exhibit spaces stand about a dozen feet above sea level to protect the artwork from watery ruin, but the museum itself—set to open this year—is anchored to the seafloor. That way it won’t float away before you get there.
While in Abu Dhabi
Eat: Haggle for fresh seafood atbefore chowing down at the Corniche harborside promenade.
Stay: Take in the crazy LED canopy and sunset views from two rooftop pools at thehotel.
Do: Exploreinteractive exhibit on Emirati clothing and accessories (through August), then chill on a beanbag and enjoy a Middle Eastern film at the outdoor theater.
This article appears in the May issue..