The latest addition to Saadiyat Cultural District in the UAE capital is an immersive, multi-sensory venue called teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi. Developed in conjunction with the Japanese art collective teamLab, the experimental, interactive 17,000 square metre space will be completed in 2024.
A home for infinite curiosity
Painting a picture of things to come in the UAE capital, the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, has joined forces with the Japanese art collective teamLab, to develop a one-of-a-kind, immersive and interactive experience.
Dubbed ‘The world's new home for infinite curiosity’, it's where technology, science, art and nature converge.
And for a sneak peek of what will be known as ‘teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi’, we visited the project's pop-up studio and popped into some artworks.
Visitors to this venue in Abu Dhabi, will quickly realise that things on the ground are done a little bit differently. Not least because there are no floor plans. It's up to you to find your own way around the creative space.
You also don't need to keep your distance from the artwork. A hands-on approach is very much encouraged.
And perhaps most surprisingly of all, this artwork smells as good as it looks.
On the ground to shed light on the sensory experience, were some of teamLabs’ key players from Japan.
Established in 2001, the group of international artists, engineers and architects explore the relationship between "the self" and "the world", through new perceptions of art.
“We were interested in how the environment breathes life into Phenomena," says group founder Toshiyuki Inoko. "And how Phenomena breathes life into the artwork. We were interested in how to broaden people’s awareness about the planet. And being in Abu Dhabi, one of the leading cities of the future in the world, we can further expand human perception of the future. I’m really honoured to be able to take on such a challenge."
A cultural nexus for Abu Dhabi
The natural island of Saadiyat is Abu Dhabi's cultural nexus.
And in the past five years, the UAE capital has strategically developed its creative industries - giving rise to flagship projects like Saadiyat Cultural District, which is where DCT Abu Dhabi's Chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak encourages visitors to explore: it's already home to the Louvre and will soon feature the Zayed National Museum, the Natural History Museum plus the Abrahamic Family House.
And of course, there's one more upcoming cultural attraction, set to make waves: Phenomena
"Phenomena - it's such a philosophical place that we would hope for you to become this critical intellectual thinker," says Al Mubarak. "So, the concepts of discovery and imagination and curiosity that - to us - are the building blocks of a flourishing human being… that is what the Phenomena is all about. It pushes you to take in, all of everything, that you've seen…..and to truly celebrate your imagination, your curiosity, and then discover the world that's ahead of you."
And in terms of the youth, the Emirati youth of today and tomorrow, what do you want them to take away?
"I mean, our leadership have always said ‘impossible’ is just a concept," says Al Mubarak. "Everything is possible, if you work for it - or if you dream of it. And we're not afraid of dreaming here. On the contrary, we're telling you to dream. We're going to be telling future generations to dream. Be curious. We want you to explore. There's no barrier in front of you. And I think that's what we're trying to create here in this Cultural District. All of these fantastic museums are educational institutions. They're going to help build the building blocks of a flourishing, forward-thinking society."
And a favourite room?
"There's a space that we're calling the ‘Infinite Forest'," he says. "That, to me, is something that's very, very special. Obviously, I'm conceptualising this in my mind, because right now there are just beautiful CGIs or beautiful drawings. And I imagine myself being in the centre of these massive, almost tree trunks, that take you, you know, are metres tall. And then they come to life. They come to life with touch. They come to life with motion. And that's something I believe, you know, just being in that space will inspire so many people."
As visitors will soon see for themselves, it won't be long before the capital's multi-sensory artistic ambitions become virtual reality.