Triangular and measuring 27 sq km, Saadiyat Island is being transformed into an upscale leisure and cultural destination.

The developer is the Tourism Development & Investment Co., an independent public joint stock company of which Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is the sole shareholder. TDIC’s strategy is to sell land plots to private investors who will develop them in accordance with a masterplan created by Gensler and Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

The island’s glitziest drawing card will be four iconic museums, linked by a canal, in the cultural district. AECOM is the program manager of this district.

A branch of the Louvre designed by Jean Nouvel will inhabit a 180-m-diameter saucer-like dome sheltering a cluster of detached gallery spaces. The structure will be intricately perforated with Islamic-style filigree, casting dappled shadows below. Construction is expected to cost $900 million. Germany’s Bauer International FZE began driving foundation piles in March. The general contract is expected to be awarded in the fall, and construction is expected to be completed in 2013.

A Frank Gehry-designed jumble of stone-clad boxes, slanted square towers and cones will house a branch of the Guggenheim. With a $400-million construction price tag, the 30,000-sq-m of project is expected to be completed by 2014. The substructure contract will be awarded later this year.

The Performing Arts Center, designed by Zaya Hadid, will contain a music hall, concert hall, opera house, and theater, as well as a performing arts academy. The complex resembles a stack of veined, fused, and overlapping leaves, sculpted in metal and glass.

The Zayed National Museum, devoted to showcasing Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage, is being designed by Foster + Partners. The design has not yet been made public.

In addition to the cultural district, the island will offer many other leisure opportunities. The Saadiyat Beach District will feature 9 km of beaches, nine luxury hotels and resorts, golf, and several thousand units of luxury residences. The 3.7-sq-km marina district will have a marina, central business district, and a maritime museum. Designed by Tadao Ando, the museum takes the form of a rectangular box whose underside is scalloped into a 14-m-high arch over the harbor.

Other districts will be devoted to family resorts, boardwalks, boutique hotels and low-rise waterfront residences by tidal lagoons. The first villas are slated to be finished at the end of 2010. Once fully developed, Saadiyat Island’s population is expected to reach 150,000.

In addition to being a vacation destination, Saadiyat Island will house a branch of New York University with more than 2,500 students. Site mobilization work on the campus is scheduled to commence this fall and be completed by early 2014. Mubadala is the developer; Al Futtaim Carillion is the design-builder. Rafael Vi�oly Architects designed the masterplan.

Several components of the island’s infrastructure are completed or under construction. The 10-lane Sheikh Khalifa Bridge connecting the island to the city of Abu Dhabi opened in October 2009. Construction of the sewage treatment plant started in November 2009 and is expected to be completed by September 2011. Work is under way on three of the four 132-kv electrical substations, with commissioning scheduled for August.

Housing is being built for the construction workforce, which is expected to peak at 40,000. Saadiyat Construction Village will ultimately comprise four clusters of dormitories, with each cluster capable of accommodating 5,000 workers. Two of the clusters have been completed so far, with 8,000 workers living there at present. Construction of the third and fourth clusters are approaching completion.

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Estimated Cost: $27 billion

Construction Period: 2007-2018

Developer: Tourism Development & Investment Co. (TDIC)

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