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Project Profile: Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, Kuwait City

“Delivering the undeliverable”

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre (SAASCC) is situated adjacent to the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait City. This astonishing project consists of six main components on the 18-hectare site: The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Space Museum, Arabic Islamic Science Museum, Fine Arts Centre and the external spaces known as the Public Realm.

How do you successfully deliver the world’s largest museum complex in one single phase? Discover how this landmark project was completed on time and on budget.

“The project was intended not only to exceed the expectations of local visitors but also to welcome and inspire an international audience”

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre (SAASCC) is situated adjacent to the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait City. This astonishing project consists of six main components on the 18-hectare site: The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Space Museum, Arabic Islamic Science Museum, Fine Arts Centre and the external spaces known as the Public Realm.

The vision of HH The Emir, the project was administered by the Amiri Diwan who appointed Kuwaiti Architects SSH to design and engineer the building envelopes and components, which are seamlessly connected through glazed wings and a sweeping canopy acting as the central spine of the cultural centre.

Alghanim International, a highly regarded local main contractor, were appointed as the builders, tasked with constructing the museum envelopes and undertaking the extensive sitewide landscaping. London-based Cultural Innovations developed the visitor experience design.

Whilst designed to meet the Kuwaiti educational curriculum, the project was intended not only to exceed the expectations of local visitors but also to welcome and inspire an international audience. Exhibits at SAASCC cover the entire spectrum of history, science, space and culture, making the project a truly world-class destination.

The project forms the major part of Kuwait’s new national cultural district. The district is a celebration of the scientific and cultural achievements of mankind, and the scale and shapes of the buildings are designed to convey a sense of wonder and awe. With a combination of internal and external exhibitory, sensory displays and lighting, SAASCC is accessible to visitors day and night.

This remarkable project has some impressive statistics to match; not least the incredible team assembled to develop, produce, deliver and install the entire project. An unprecedented number of specialists from all over the world working day and night were required to successfully deliver this one-off project. Although many international specialists were drafted in, the project had a distinctly British feel due to the appointed exhibition fit-out contractor and construction manager, BECK.

In addition to the extraordinary task in hand, during the prefabrication and installation, every exhibit and component had to be inspected, and approved for accuracy, in line with the tender drawings and specification. This huge task was the responsibility of UK based Design PM, who were appointed by SSH for their unique specialist knowledge of the museum sector.

Natural History Museum
Making up eight of the galleries across the complex, the Natural History Museum (NHM) covers themes including Prehistoric Life, Ecosystems, The Earth and Environment, Biodiversity, Nature, and Arabian Wildlife and Geography. Each individual museum has its own iconic elements which required multiple specialist teams to be carefully coordinated.

Within the NHM galleries is a South East Asian rain forest with a combination of living trees and plants interspersed with faux, overlooking a 1.4 million litre aquarium stocked with live species. The 6m x 6m concave end retaining panel together with the side viewing panels weigh over 65 tons providing a full underwater panorama of the aquarium.

The Prehistoric Life gallery includes over 30 full size prehistoric creatures both skeletal and full bodied; All fabricated to a highly realistic level of detail, supported by leading palaeontologists and National Geographic.
Each museum has a glass clad wing protruding from the end, allowing visitors a glimpse of the exhibits in the evening from the external Public Realm areas. The Prehistoric Life wing includes an impressive 17-metre-long prehistoric whale suspended above four striking displays of giant beasts from the distant past.

Science Museum
The ten diverse galleries that make up the Science Museum take the visitor on a remarkable journey through Transport, Experiments, the Human Mind and Body, Robotics, Natural Defences and Innovation. One of the highlights is the 20 seat 4D dark ride experience suspended from the mezzanine floor which takes visitors on an adventure inside the human body. The 3D projection accompanied by motion base technology is one of the must-see elements of this museum.

The Transport gallery houses over 200 historical and contemporary vehicles from full scale planes, boats and cars suspended from the roof structure, to full size replicas of the Bluebird and Bloodhound speed record vehicles and the Red Bull Stratos capsule. The technical installation methodology, coordination and structural challenges were significant within this gallery.

At the introduction to the Robotics gallery, visitors are met by a 3-metre-tall animatronic host robot who explains the interactive journey they are about to embark upon. Fully immersive and interactive galleries such as Experiment and Innovate also provided some of the most complex interactivity.

These hands-on experiences needed to meet international standards, meet the school curriculum and in some instances meet culturally sensitive requirements. Prototyped, developed, rigorously tested and installed in just 12 months, each museum, and each gallery had its own stringent development deadline programme challenges to overcome.

Space Museum
The Space Museum with four galleries and a 110-seat planetarium creates a futuristic museum exploring topics from the Big Bang to space travel, and our place in the solar system. At the centre, the planetarium was designed and built as part of the exhibition fit-out including the structural development and engineering for it to traverse the ground and mezzanine floors.

Amongst the various space vehicles, communication devices, satellites, space telescopes and planets suspended within the gallery, sits a fully replicated recreation of the International Space Station (ISS) which engulfs the entire gallery. At over 50 metres long, the ISS creates its own gallery on the mezzanine floor where visitors can gain a sense of living in space. Back on the ground, visitors are invited to drive the Mars Rover and explore the solar system and hidden galaxies.

For younger visitors, the Space Academy gallery provides children with the opportunity to experience first-hand some of the exciting training exercises and tasks carried out by astronauts.

The Space Museum explores both the historic achievements of the various space agencies around the world and provides a thought provoking glimpse of what the future may hold. Invaluable support from the European Space Agency and others made the project research and development for the Space Museum accurate and efficient.

Arabic Islamic Science Museum
This museum is dedicated to the influences of Arabic scholars and inventors over history, and explores how and why Islamic civilisation, and particularly the arts and sciences, flourished through the 8th to 14th century. The space is more traditional and evokes contemplation.

Suspended above a map of the Middle East region hang five scale models of some of the most iconic mosques across the world highlighting their unique architecture. Visitors can get a close-up view of some of the world’s most ornate and influential mosques and see their intricate detail.

Visitors can explore the wonders of Arabic influences on today’s modern world, key inventions such as the camera obscura and Al-Jazari clocks can be discovered in the interactive library and multi touch displays allow the visitor to identify key inventions, how they have developed and still play a part in today’s society.

First hand accounts of influential inventors, scholars and explorers such as Abbas Ibn Firnas and Ibn Battuta, their trade routes, explorations and legacies are followed within the museum. Mixed media is used to engage all visitors leaving them with a sense of pride and ambition.

For younger visitors, classrooms, design and interactive spaces allow them to design buildings, retrace historic trading routes and try their hand at trading in local markets.

Public Realm
Externally around the museum, nestled within the Public Realm are a combination of sensory exhibits that use the natural elements to provide visitors a place to gather and relax in the cooler evenings. A range of light, wind and sound displays, along with water play areas, provide the perfect end to a busy day visiting the museums. Placed along the central spine are giant sculptures providing additional artistic interpretations of the museums. In addition to the public realm exhibitory, each museum has an iconic feature representing the subject matter of that particular museum; this acts as an immediate orientation aid for the visitors. At night the clever architecture and lighting allow visitors to gain a glimpse of the internal galleries beyond their facades.

SAASCC – a project of this magnitude demands statistics to match:

• The exhibition design, research, production and installation, including an inauguration ceremony by HH The Emir and the full public opening was completed in a head spinning 27 months

• The four museums and Public Realm sit on an 18-hectare site with 22 galleries and over 900 individual exhibits

• Uniquely the entire collection of over 2000 artefacts and objects across the site were replicated with over 25 specialist model makers and a team of prop purchasers

• In addition to the main exhibition contractor tasked with procuring, managing and programming the team through to completion, the work involved 65 specialist sub-contractors from five continents, clocking up more than 1.5million working hours to complete the project

• At the height of the project, over 3,000 people were manufacturing the exhibits off site whilst a 5,000 strong team on site were building the museums

• The museums feature over 350 audio visual display exhibits requiring more than 23 miles of data cabling

• The museums contain over 100 audio visual racks seamlessly controlling the shows, displays and interactives

• The team clocked up an incredible 3000 flights during the project lifes plan

• Over 350 containers shipped in the exhibits from all over the world, including the giant acrylic panels, 60ft prehistoric whale and full-size rain forest trees

• The project scale and geographical spread was such that the team had to meet the challenge of providing progress updates to the client team from all over the world. The exhibition fit out contractor designed and developed its own web app (SAASCC live) to provide constant updates through images, video, time-lapse sequences and blogs from each of the specialists

BECK – perhaps the most obvious name to be associated with “delivering the undeliverable”

The delivery of Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre could not have been achieved without the fantastic support of the client – Amiri Diwan and the hundreds of team members from across the globe. Every trade from setworks, interactives and showcases to audio visual hardware integration, multimedia and film production, lighting and graphics along with hundreds of model makers, scenic artists, sculptors, metalworkers and aquarium suppliers made the impossible, possible.

A cultural project of this scale has never been attempted before, and although a considerable challenge for the team at BECK, their historical experience and previously completed complex international projects were all contributing factors to the success.

“A project of this scale is unrivalled in the museum sector to date, the simultaneous fabrication and installation of four entire museums”

Following an international tender including companies from the UK, USA, Europe and the Middle East, BECK were appointed by the Amiri Diwan as the exhibition fit out contractor for this amazing project.

Working in conjunction with local contractor Alghanim International who were also responsible for the main building construction, the task was set to develop the design, build and deliver this mammoth project on time and to a single set budget.

Whilst the overall project statistics speak volumes about the sheer scale of the task that faced the team, the individual statistics required to deliver the cultural centre are astounding. The BECK team carefully managed and navigated the project from commencement through to a successful conclusion on time and to the budget set out at contract signing.

The logistical challenges that the project presented, from the complexities of administering the Kuwaiti contract through to the shipment of over 350 containers from all over the world, was considerable for the 45 strong BECK management team.

A project of this scale is unrivalled in the museum sector to date; the simultaneous fabrication and installation of four entire museums.

What an achievement…….

Although there were many international specialist and suppliers, BECK’s contribution and commitment to utilising UK specialists is self-evident with over £50 million of the project being contracted to UK companies. On the following pages are listed most of the key UK specialists that BECK can not thank enough for their efforts, commitment and quality to “deliver the seemingly undeliverable”.

Victory House, Cox Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 1SG – United Kingdom
T: +44 (0) 20 8974 0500

Atlas AV
International provider of award winning audio-visual solutions – where ambitious objectives meet skill and precision.
E: | T: +44 (0)1792 891224 |

Collaborative design and manufacture of sheetmetal, monitor housings, AV racks and mounts for museums and visitors centres worldwide.
E: | T: +44 (0)1622 685117 |

Centre Screen
Telling stories on every kind and size of screen – from smartphones to theatrical installations, tablets to touch-tables and web films to colossal 4D experiences.
E: | T: +44 (0)161 832 7151 |

Global museum showcase design and manufacturing company with world-class technical capabilities and project management skills.
E: | T: +44 (0)1506 835200 |

Crawley Creatures
Bespoke solutions in animatronics and models for museums, TV and film, and entertainment industries. Est. 1986.
E: | T: +44 (0)1280 815300 |

Cultural Innovations
Providing planning, content development, interpretation and exhibition and graphic design for all aspects of museums.
E: | P: +44 20 7731 4396 |

Curvature Group
Agile and highly respected modelmaking company – makes small product modelsup to full size mock-ups.
E: | T: +44 (0)1296 663266 |

Specialist project management company for museums and visitor attractions.

D J Willrich
Audio-visual consultants and systems integrators for museums, heritage sites and theme parks.
E: | T: +44 (0)1590 612603 |

Design, build, and support innovative technology solutions that create experiences for people to live, work and play.
E: | T: +44 (0)1322 643081 |

Helix 3d
With extensive experience across TV, film, events and PR, they provide creative inspiration and problem solving for agencies and production companies.
E: | T: +44 (0)20 8311 4477 |

Inside Culture Middle East
UAE-based consultancy providing strategic planning and management to museum clients and design teams.
E: | T: +971 50 6702999 or + 44 (0)7775 537499

InteractUn Limited
Design, build, install and service robust, educational, interactive exhibits for museums and visitor centres globally.
E: | T: +44 (0)7941 649512 |

Leach Inspire
Combining unique industry experience with exciting and innovative graphic production and display techniques to produce inspirational visitor environments.
E: | T: +44 (0)7917 371280 |

Designers and modelmakers producing superbly detailed models, replicas, dioramas and interactives for museums internationally.
E: | T: +44 (0)1753 681234 |

Newangle Productions
Digital storytellers for dynamic visitor experiences – transforming stories into compelling encounters for new audiences.
E: | T: +44(0)207 916 0106 |

Protosheet Engineering
Bespoke sheet metal fabricators, bringing designs to life. From design concept to installation.
E: | P: +44 (0)1322 550545 |

SI Electrical
Specialise in Museums & Cultural Centres working throughout the UK, the world, in particular the Middle East. Est. 1997.
E: | T: +44 (0)20 8694 5250 |

The Hub
Delivering high quality museum projects. Collaborative approach ensures that the client expectations are always met.
E: | T: +44 (0) 1527 830950 |

Universal Fibre Optics
UFO design, manufacture and install lighting systems for prestigious projects around the world.
E: | T: +44 (0)1890 883416 |



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