New artists’ hub for Reem Island?

Abu Dhabi’s Reem Island will be acquiring an important new cultural space for artists, if plans announced at Cityscape Abu Dhabi recently go ahead as promised.

The track record of major developments which get a Cityscape unveiling is a tad spotty – developers announce a huge project, hope for enough pre-build interest to indicate whether it’s worth proceeding, trust that their financing plans will weather the three to five years of building, and either park the idea or open it a couple of years late.

But let’s not be too cynical. The hot Danish design studio Bjarke Ingels Group will be designing The-Artery, a AED 100 million flexible art space cum car park (yes, really) that is set to be the centrepiece for a masterplanned area called Makers District. That in turn is a AED 12bn 18-hectare waterfront development from real estate developer Imkan.


BIG was responsible for the Warehouse421 makeover in Abu Dhabi’s Mina area and has designed the as-yet putative Hyperloop fast transit link between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but apart from a couple of abortive proposals the firm has not had any publicised involvement in the UAE.

The-Artery is presented as a 26,000 sq m space where artists will be able to create as well as show their work.

In fact the domed seven-storey building will be about 50 percent car park, which makes for an interesting commercial argument. BIG’s design turns the structure inside out with a kind of double helix (two interlocking ramps running around the outside) that provides a visual link between the building’s functions but separates them into makers’ spaces, that parking garage, and an exhibition venue in the central atrium.

Coming soon? Hyperloop test track under construction

Construction on The-Artery is due to start this year (which is close enough to suggest that it may well happen) along with the 12 other buildings, including apartments and offices, that make up phase one of Makers’ District. It is all scheduled to be ready for tenants by 2020.

Three other design firms – architects MVRDV from Rotterdam, Hong Kong’s 10 Design, and interiors specialist N Studio from London – will also be involved in the first phase 1 of the Makers District development.

Describing The-Artery as “a regional creative powerhouse in the heart of Abu Dhabi”, Imkan CEO Walid El Hindi promised that “Imkan is setting out to create a dynamic, integrated and engaging community that captures the collaborative spirit of the maker movement. This journey begins with The-Artery”.

It’s by no means clear how artists and makers will be able to afford space in a top development in a prime location, though perhaps Dubai’s d3 provides something of a model – there’s much talk of The-Artery as a “creative pulse”, which could as easily mean a home for local luxury fashion and design brands as a haven for penniless artists.

Incidentally, Imkan is a trading arm for Abu Dhabi Capital Group, a broadly diversified private equity firm whose other interests include a number of major developments overseas – notably in London and Cairo – and some closer to home, among them the H Hotel in Dubai and the Rawdhat build-to-rent project and the Mangrove Village villa community in Abu Dhabi.

Walid El Hindi added that Imkan intends to roll out the concept of “soulful places that enrich people’s lives” across an ambitious roll call of countries – Egypt, Brazil, Morocco, the UK and Montenegro (which is where Abu Dhabi Capital Group has partners or subsidiaries already beavering away on projects).

We’d like to show you some pics but there seems to be no renders or other images available. If you want more breathless analogy-stretching, though, try the project’s website.

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