Museums United Arab Emirates

Saadiyat super tunnel will link Abu Dhabi’s big three museums

Safety first as Guggenheim and Louvre satellites to share secure underground link for moving objects with National Zayed Museum

Impression of the cultural district with its three landmark museums

Abu Dhabi is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to moving objects safely and securely building a high security tunnel that will link the Guggenheim, Louvre and National Zayed Museum, which the British Museum is helping to design, on Saadiyat Island. Measuring 1.2km long, the dual-lane tunnel will be shared by the three institutions to make sure objects can be moved in a secure and climate-controlled environment, confirms a spokesman for the organisation in charge of the mega project, Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).

“The tunnel is one of the most important parts of the Cultural District jigsaw,” Lee Kandalaff, an engineer who is the deputy director of infrastructure delivery, told The National, when the Gulf newspaper was given access to the construction site in July. The 12-metre width of the tunnel will mean “there will never be a traffic jam,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York declined to comment on its planned use of the shared facility, saying: “We have nothing further to add to the information provided by TDIC.” But the British Museum was more forthcoming. A spokeswoman for the London institution tells us: “The shared tunnel [will] provide a secure, monitored collection logistics route between the museums; and a secure conduit for critical utilities.”

There could be other infrastructure that the museums on Saadiyat Island will share but for the time being TDIC is keeping the details under wraps. “There are ongoing discussions regarding other shared facilities,” confirms the British Museum’s spokeswoman, adding that “nothing is confirmed”.

Some of the first objects due to be transported around Saadiyat Island through the tunnel will be around 300 objects lent by 13 French museums to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is due to open in late 2015. The loans from the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou in Paris among other institutions are due to be announced at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, groups including Gulf Labor, a coalition of artists and activists, are monitoring working conditions on Saadiyat Island and campaigning to improve migrant labourers’ pay and accommodation. Another issue faced by workers are the recruitment and relocation fees owed to the subcontractors who hired them in their home countries including Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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