Abu Dhabi sits on an estimated one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves. Compared to its more cosmopolitan neighbour within the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, which has seen staggering economic growth over the past ten years, but suffered severely from the slump, Abu Dhabi has grown slowly and built on its cultural heritage, a strategy that is paying off now that it is emerging from the recession.
Creatives are attracted to the Middle East not only for the luxury, but for the latest and best in design. Abu Dhabi is keen to build for the benefit of its people, not for tourism. Its sensible, reassuring economic approach has drawn in designers, The Brand Union claiming to be the first global branding consultancy to set up there. Other consultancies operating there include Futurebrand, Brand Faith, London-based Manha and Brash Brands.
The British Museum has, meanwhile, struck a multi-million pound deal to help launch the Zayed National Museum, designed by Lord Foster, in 2013. From a design point of view, the big attraction is Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, an ambitious urban scheme which takes in property development, land use and transport.