Qatar and UAE are tendering construction contracts worth billions of dollars for landmark museums aimed at driving the region’s cultural agenda in the coming decades.

The largest single development is the Cultural District on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, which is being developed by the local Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) and will include five museums.

At the end of August, it invited contractors to bid by 15 October for the contract to build the Zayed National Museum on Saadiyat Island.

The prequalifiers include:

The main construction contract includes the concrete superstructure, structural steelwork and specialist cladding, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and the interior fit-out. The project has been delayed following a strategic review of future projects by Abu Dhabi government in 2011.

In 2010, TDIC told companies it will now procure contractors for the estimated $1bn project using a series of traditional lumpsum contracts. The developer had originally planned to build the museum using a design and build contract.

Italy’s Swissboring completed the enabling works, the local NSCC completed the piling, and a joint venture of the local/Australian Habtoor Leighton Group and South Africa’s Murray & Roberts Contractors completed the substructure.

UK-based Foster & Partners designed the museum.

TDIC has also received prequalification documents from contractors for the main contract to build the Guggenheim museum on Saadiyat Island. The scope of work comprises concrete substructure, concrete superstructure, structural steelwork, glulam timber structure/glazed cladding to the cones, mechanical, electrical and plumbing works, vertical transportation, specialist security installation, fit-out works and external works.

Criteria that interested companies must meet to bid for the tender include: recent experience on similar projects; a minimum turnover for construction activities of $272m in each of the past three years; and completion of three projects each in excess of $272m in the past five years. US-based Frank Gehry is the architect.

In January, TDIC awarded the main construction contract to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum on Saadiyat Island to a joint venture of the local Arabtec, Spain’s Constructora San Jose and Oger Abu Dhabi.

The winning consortium saw off competition from the other two shortlisted firms, the local/Belgian Six Construct Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s El-Seif Engineering & Contracting.

Construction work on the project has started (see video). The concrete frame of the museum is scheduled for completion by the first quarter of 2014. Work on the geometric lace dome will be completed by the end of 2014, with the final stage of the project set for completion in 2015. The main package, valued at AED2.4bn ($653m), will involve the concrete structure and superstructure works, structural steel works, cladding and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works.

The museum will have a total built-up area of 64,000 square metres and was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Two other museums and cultural centres are planned for Saadiyat Island. They are a performing arts centre designed by UK-based Zaha Hadid and a maritime museum designed by Japan’s Tadao Ando.

TDIC is also preparing to tender contracts to build infrastructure supporting the museums on Saadiyat Island. The works will include the construction of roads, utilities, and general infrastructure serving the museums that are being built on the island. TDIC earlier invited contractors to prequalify for a contract to build a tunnel serving the Cultural District.

In Qatar, the local Lusail Real Estate Development Company has received prequalification documents from contractors for the deal to build a museum at the Lusail development, located to the north of Doha.

The project will involve building a 33-metre-high, 150-metre-wide semi-spherical structure located on the southeastern shores of Entertainment Island, a 230,000-square-metre manmade island at the Lusail development. The development will also include a luxury hotel, a convention centre, and a parking structure to the north of the island.

The total built-up area of the museum will be 76,500 sq m, comprising one basement level and five above-ground levels. It will include space for exhibition galleries, an auditorium, meeting rooms, libraries, laboratories, retail areas, cafeterias and restaurants.

The Lusail Museum will add to two major cultural developments that are already being built in Qatar. South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction is working on a $434m contract it won in September 2011 to build the new Qatar National Museum on the Doha Corniche..

Like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the museum was designed by Jean Nouvel. It is being built on two plots of land on the corniche, next to the existing Qatar National Museum. They cover an area of about 150,000 sq m, separated by Al-Muthaf Road.

Most of the old museum will be demolished, but the old palace building that was used by Qatar’s ruling family in the early 20th century will remain as part of the new museum complex.

Astad, the project management arm of Qatar Petroleum, is managing the construction of the project on behalf of Qatar Museum Authority.

Canada’s Brookfield Multiplex also won a contract to build a cultural building in Qatar in September 2011 when it was awarded the estimated $274m contract to build the new Qatar Central Library at Qatar Foundation’s Education City, located on the outskirts of Doha. Again, Astad is the project manager.