david adjaye shares first look at the abrahamic family house in abu dhabi

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    Adjaye Associates has provided a first look at the completed Abrahamic Family House in the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The newly constructed complex consists of three separate houses of worship – a mosque, a church, and a synagogue – as well as communal gathering spaces, and is designed to serve as a center for learning, dialogue, and faith practice.

    ‘I believe architecture should work to enshrine the kind of world we want to live in, a world of acceptance, openness,
    and constant advancement. As an architect, I want to create a building that starts to rise above the notion of hierarchical difference and enhances the richness of human life. Our hope is that through these buildings that celebrate three distinct religions, people of all faiths and from across society can learn and engage in a mission of peaceful coexistence for generations to come.’ shares Sir David Adjaye. The Abrahamic Family House was officially inaugurated and opened to worshippers on February 16, 2023.


    The Abrahamic Family House by Adjaye Associates (find more here) consists of a one-story plinth with a central welcoming forum and three houses of worship embedded within it. The three cubic houses of worship are of equal size and form a clear visual harmony. At the same time, each building is unique in its architectural arrangement and is specifically oriented to its location and religious references. Each structure has a courtyard with a water feature and additional spaces that correspond to their respective religious traditions and practices. The houses are connected by an elevated garden – a shared space of encounter and connection. Sunlight is the main design feature of the complex, entering each building at different times of the day.


    Designed to face Mecca, the mosque features seven elongated arches on each side, reflecting the significance of the number seven in Islam. The walls are covered with more than 470 movable panels of filigree latticework, representing the mashrabiya -one of the most admired features of Islamic architecture- on a large scale.

    A four-column interior grid forms nine soaring vaults that direct visitors’ gaze to the mihrab. The four columns reference the Islamic notion of stability, order, and abundance attributed to the number four. The mosque has two external ablution rooms – one for male worshippers and one for female worshippers. The male ablution room is shaped like an inverted pyramid, while the female ablution room is shaped like an inverted sphere. These shapes are constructed of concrete to give a sense of weight and wonder when preparing for prayer.


    The church faces east, toward the rising sun, as light is considered a symbol of divinity. A forest of towering columns symbolizes the vertical rays of light. The columns are oriented east-west so that daylight floods the sanctuary in the morning and keeps out the hot midday sun.

    The design of the church is based on the idea of an ‘ecstatic redemptive shower’. The ‘shower’ consists of a series of linear wooden slats that rise in the center and fall away at the periphery. The church’s vault is made of more than 13,000 linear feet of wood (42,650 linear feet). The oak pews were designed by Adjaye Associates and reference the vertical façade design of the church. The crucifix is intentionally minimalist in design to emphasize that the church is open to all and will be used by multiple denominations. The baptistery is octagonal, like ancient baptisteries, in a conical shape with small openings. As the sun moves during the day, the light penetrates the cone and creates additional light shadows in the space.


    The synagogue is oriented towards Jerusalem. Three layers of V-shaped columns reference overlapping layers of palm fronds at the sukkah – a traditional prayer shelter used during Sukkot, the Jewish Festival of Refuge. The columns on each side of the building have seven tops touching the floor and eight tops touching the ceiling – with seven being a representative symbol of man and eight representing God in heaven.

    A hanging bronze tent of mesh, suspended from the central skylight of the ceiling and draped over the congregation, symbolizes both the tent-like structure of the sukkah and the original tabernacle, which used much bronze and oriented visitors toward the Torah. The daylight refracted in the colonnade and suspended bronze netting creates the effect of subdued, filtered light inside the synagogue, referencing the sunlight that falls through the palm fronds of the sukkah. The skylight provides a view of the stars at night and references the chuppah, a temporary structure used at Jewish weddings. The floor plan was designed to be as flexible as possible so that seating can be changed for both Sephardic and Ashkenazi congregations. The mikvah is a perfect quadrangle, with people moving around a central square basin, taking each step along the way until they reach the basin. When building the mikvah, it was necessary to comply with the religious regulations for the construction of a mikvah and at the same time apply modern construction methods.

    myrto katsikopoulou I designboom

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