Boom Times Are Back in Dubai, With a New Museum, Opera House, and Cultural District in the Works

Boom Times Are Back in Dubai, With a New Museum, Opera House, and Cultural District in the Works
Architectural model of the Alserkal Avenue expansion
(Courtesy Alserkal Avenue)

Not to be outdone by Abu Dhabi’s plans to build a mult-billion-dollar museum hub, Dubai has announced a mammoth leap forward as a cultural destination. The city’s next move in thte Middle Eastern Arts race: building the Dubai Modern Art Museum & Opera House District, while simultaneously transforming the Al Quoz industrial district into a Chelsea-like gallery row.

Four years ago, Dubai’s plans to build a sprawling arts district, which included a Zaha Hadid-designed opera house, fell victim to financial meltdown. Despite the government's current estimated $100 billion debt, officials announced that such a project would "further strengthen UAE’s emerging role as the cultural hub of the region,” according to AFP. The district, which would also include two new hotels, galleries, and housing, would be erected near the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed Burj Khalifa, the (current) tallest building in the world. 

At Al Quoz's Alserkal Avenue, entpreneur Abdelmonem Alserkal's cultural pet project has been growing in popularity since 2007. Plans to demolish the avenue's marble factory will make way for galleries and studios, an events space large enough for 1,000 people, and parking for 500 cars, as well as a private gallery to display items from the Alserkal family’s collection. Currently half of the avenue's 39 warehouse spaces are being used for cultural purposes, while the expansion would add 62 more such units. “I know from travelling abroad that businesses are moving out of areas that used to be industrial, that used to be rough, and it is becoming trendy for artists to move in, Alserkal recently told the National. “We are forming a fund to invest in international art and local art. The existing art we have is mostly international and mostly has to do with Arabic calligraphy, and Arabic and Islamic design.”

Funded entirely by the family whose name it bears, Alserkal Avenue's expansion is scheduled for completion in 2014. No architect has been tied to the opera house project yet, but construction is expected to begin soon.