The Mastaba, a project for Abu Dhabi, was conceived in 1977.
It will be the largest sculpture in the world, made from 410,000 multi-colored barrels to form a mosaic of bright sparkling colors, echoing Islamic architecture. The Mastaba is an ancient and familiar shape to the people of the region.
The Mastaba will be 150 meters (492 feet) high, 225 meters (738 feet) deep at the 60 degree slanted walls and 300 meters (984 feet) wide at the vertical walls. The top of The Mastaba will be a horizontal surface 126.8 meters (416 feet) wide and 225 meters (738 feet) deep.
The colors and the positioning of the 55-gallon steel barrels were selected by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1979, the year in which the artists visited the Emirate for the first time.
The proposed area is inland, in Al Gharbia (Western Region) approximately 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of the city of Abu Dhabi, near the oasis of Liwa.
In 2007 and 2008, Christo and Jeanne-Claude contracted professors of engineering from ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US, Cambridge University in the UK and Hosei University in Tokyo, Japan, to prepare structural feasibility studies about The Mastaba. All four teams worked independently and did not know of each other.
The artists then hired the German engineering firm, Schlaich Bergermann und Partner, in Stuttgart, to analyze these reports. The Hosei University concept was found to be the most technically sound and innovative. The entire substructure as well as the layer of barrels will be assembled flat on the ground. Ten elevation towers will make it possible to raise the entire structure on rails to its final position in about 3 to 4 days.
In 2012, Christo commissioned Pricewaterhouse Coopers to conduct analyses on the social and economic benefits of The Mastaba.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s relationship with Abu Dhabi goes back to 1979 when they first visited the Emirate. They have returned many times since, creating a longstanding friendship with the people of Abu Dhabi.
The Mastaba will be Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s only permanent large-scale work.