Posted inFeaturesDesign & Architecture

Bassam Freiha Art Foundation: An architectural marvel in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District

Rasha Gebran, Director of Architecture and Design at A.D.D. Consultants, and the creative mind behind the Bassam Freiha Art Foundation (BFAF) exclusively shares how the structure immortalises the founder’s legacy, making it a beacon of inspiration and cultural dialogue

Bassam Freiha Art Foundation: A symphony of art and architecture

Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District recently added a new feather to its cap—The Bassam Freiha Art Foundation (BFAF). Nestled beside Manarat Al Saadiyat and Berklee Abu Dhabi, the BFAF, founded by philanthropist and art collector H.E. Bassam Freiha, is the first private art foundation in the Cultural District, and aims to showcase global art collections, offering audiences the chance to discover rare works from private collections locally, regionally, and internationally. In addition to its exhibition program, the foundation will also focus on cultural and educational initiatives.

Striking architecture

Amidst the other awe-inspiring structures, how does the BFAF stand out? As you step into the world of BFAF, you realise that the foundation is a profound embodiment of the founder’s character, envisioned to reflect his towering presence, wisdom, and the mosaic of his achievements.

According to Rasha Gebran, Director of Architecture and Design at A.D.D. Consultants, and the creative mind behind the structure, the concepts took two weeks to produce, and once it was chosen, detailed drawings and construction began simultaneously. Thereafter, the entire design and build process was completed in a ground-breaking time of eight months.

“The entrance, flanked by structures symbolising broad shoulders, stands as a testament to his strength and steadfastness, inviting visitors into a realm of discovery and enlightenment. The glass entrance, small and intriguing, serves as a gateway to the world within, beckoning visitors to delve deeper into the essence of art and the spirit of its benefactor. As one progresses through the building, the transition from solid structures to varied perforations narrates the story of the founder’s diverse accomplishments and the impact of his journey on the world. This gradual transformation culminates in a clear glass enclosure, a metaphor for transparency and introspection, offering a glimpse into the core of the founder’s vision and values,” explains Gebran.

The foundation’s mission is reflected in the interplay of water and structure, light and shadow, solidity and transparency within the architectural design. These elements create a space for inspiration, contemplation, and cultural dialogue, positioning the foundation uniquely in the global art scene.

Gebran believes that the surrounding water feature adds a dimension of tranquillity and reflection, both literally and metaphorically. It mirrors the foundation’s structure, doubling the visual impact of its sharp angles and dynamic perforations, and symbolises the reflective journey of art and culture the foundation promotes. Moreover, the serene water element not only enhances the peaceful ambience but also reinforces the concept of introspection and the dual nature of the founder’s character: strong and commanding, yet open and reflective.

A minimalistic identity

The interior was optimised by placing columns at the periphery of the space, creating an open plan that can be easily adapted for different exhibitions. “Flexibility was key and therefore we have walls on wheels,” she says.

When deciding on the palette for the structure, Jebran shared that she opted for materials and hues that are timeless and don’t fade away with time.

“Our philosophy of design is centred on simplicity, timelessness, and elegance. We believe in creating spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, emphasising clean lines and lasting style. Our approach is to fully understand and embrace the client’s vision, ensuring that each design reflects their needs and preferences while adding a refined, sophisticated touch. We strive to create environments that not only look beautiful but also feel welcoming, ensuring they remain relevant and delightful for years to come. Hence, we used neutral colours in all the interior finishes.”

The structure’s design seamlessly integrates with the surrounding environment, with sharp angular edges that complement the lush surroundings. It does not appear as an afterthought but instead as a natural addition to the premises.

H.E. Bassam Freiha sums it up, “My collection reflects my personal journey, which was guided by the power of art to challenge prevailing narratives and its capacity to serve as a reflection of society. I hope the foundation will inspire the next generation of art patrons and foster a culture of patronage, a critical element in the arts ecosystem.”