the UAE creates the cities of the 21st century
It is undeniable that Sir David Adjaye is a visionary architect.
He is one of the world’s leading architects, born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents and lived in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and studied and lives in the UK.
His multicultural background laid the foundation for his own practice, informing his architectural perspective and interests, and leading him to create an impressive international portfolio of award-winning and notable building work. These include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and more recently Adjaye designs the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
Inspired by the Document on Human Brotherhood celebrating the three great Abrahamic religions, the Abrahamic Family House will have a mosque, a church and a synagogue, and will include a cultural center. The site aims to serve interfaith dialogue and promote mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.
“The UAE is creating 21st century cities, 21st century communities,” Adjaye said. The National.
“The UAE has become a leader in characterizing the openness of intercultural interfaith. This dialogue is a powerful message about moving from a world where people separate to a world where people can enjoy, celebrate and respect their common humanity.
Adjaye will be in Abu Dhabi to deliver a keynote speech at this year’s Culture Summit. His presentation will focus on the Abrahamic Family Home, followed by a question-and-answer session where he will delve into his practice and work around the world.
Adjaye’s design portfolio focuses on structures that house, share and celebrate knowledge: places of worship, museums and libraries, spaces where ideas and knowledge from around the world come together. Adjaye’s time in the Middle East during his youth is evident in his work, reflecting his interest in diversity, the experience of others and the sharing of knowledge.
“What was amazing about having this experience of living in the Middle East was making me realize at a very young age, that the world is made up of different geographies, cultures and different worlds,” he says.
“Each of these worlds created extraordinary architecture from the contexts in which they found themselves, creating incredible beauty, from the resources around them, whether scarce or abundant.”
Adjaye’s experiences and observations during his time in the region helped shape his theoretical practice, which focused on understanding where we came from before knowing where we should be heading as a society. A fundamental element of this theory is to reject a universal hierarchy and to celebrate all cultures equally. And while diversity seems like an overused and redundant word, Adjaye is clear about how it can work within architecture and how we can greatly benefit from implementing it.
“If we just look at what the Europeans have done, in terms of architectural modernism, it’s a blunt instrument that only works so far,” he says.
“This ability to understand the complexity created by other people, in their context and the sophistication of it, is what we must now rely on to understand the complexity of the world.”
Exploring and studying how other cultures occupied spaces and created structures from the resources available to them is an idea that also extends to indigenous architectural theories and practices.
“I believe in learning lessons from indigenous architecture, not recreating indigenous architecture,” he says. “Thus, understanding the life cycles, the use of materials, the role and proportional relationship of systems in symbiosis, to create fantastic artifacts, spaces and places.”
With the advent and exponential growth and need for technology, especially during the pandemic, it seems difficult to see how we can merge indigenous and technological innovations.
However, Adjaye sees this synthesis as incredibly vital.
“The two cannot live without each other,” he says. “We have to use science, we have to use technology, and we have to use engineering excellence and indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge is about understanding how the world was made for humanity and civilizations in order to then propel us into the future.
Adjaye’s keynote speech will take place on October 25 during the Culture Summit.
Updated: October 20, 2022, 04:07