The historic Abu Dhabi Central Market is one of the oldest sites in the city. Inspired by the traditional architecture of the Gulf this scheme aims to reinvent the market place as a contemporary mixed-use complex and give the city a new civic heart. By offering an alternative to the globalised ‘one-size-fits-all’ shopping mall it offers a distinctive modern interpretation of the regional vernacular. As a shopping experience it combines luxury goods shops with food markets and craft-based trades. Like the traditional souk, these different experiences are brought together in an interior architecture of dappled sunlight, vibrant colours and running water, with a changing rhythm of squares, courtyards and alley ways.
Rising above this dense, close-grained ‘mat’ are three planned towers, each with a separate address, which vary in height and bulk depending on whether they contain offices, residences or a combination of a hotel and serviced apartments. Visually they form a family, with smooth reflective facades designed to need little maintenance in this dusty desert environment. To maximise the ground plane, the towers are grouped together, but spaced sufficiently apart to enhance privacy and views. The effect is a harmonious cluster – a symbol for this central site and a new landmark on the Abu Dhabi skyline.
The development was designed with a strong sustainable agenda, with layers of internal shading on the towers to control glare and solar gain. Continuing the characteristic greenery of Abu Dhabi, the site is generously landscaped, the roofs of the lower buildings forming a series of terraced gardens. For four months of the year the climate here is very pleasant – comfortable enough to stroll and sit outside. This has inspired a sequence of public routes and spaces in which barriers between inside and outside are dissolved. Cooling naturally when conditions allow, for the remainder of the year these spaces can be enclosed by roofs or walls that slide into place to enable the internal environment to be more closely controlled.