(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/24.)

He is an artist best known for wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and for siting thousands of coloured umbrellas across valleys in Japan and America. Now Christo is creating for Abu Dhabi a colossal structure that he claims will be the world's biggest permanent sculpture. Estimated construction costs of $340m (£212m) would also make it the world's most expensive.

A 150-metre-high, flat-topped pyramid would be taller than St Paul's Cathedral or St Peter's Basilica and would overshadow the Great Pyramid of Giza – creating Abu Dhabi's answer to Egypt's pyramids or Mecca's Kaaba.

The Mastaba, made out of 410,000 multicoloured oil barrels, is planned for what Christo describes as a "spectacularly beautiful" desert landscape, Al Gharbia, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city.

Speaking to the Observer, Christo said a site near Liwa oasis has been approved. The region boasts some of the world's highest dunes, with gazelles among the wildlife. Stacked barrels painted in colours inspired by the yellow and red sands will recreate the visual effect of an Islamic mosaic, he said: "When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold."


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