Reflections of time
Identity|November 2020
CEBRA Architecture has completed the masterplan for Qasr Al Hosn, a historically significant site for the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi. The various components of the masterplan include the Fort, the Cultural Foundation, a public park and a prayer hall. identity speaks to partner Mikkel Schlesinger and head of CEBRA Abu Dhabi, Arthi Balasubramanian about how the project blurs the line between architecture and public space while remaining sensitive to tradition and community needs.
Aidan Imanova
What does the building take from its context? How does its organic form relate to its surroundings and what inspired this? Mikkel Schlesinger (MS): The Musallah sits within the Qasr Al Hosn masterplan, which is designed to establish the Fort and the Cultural Foundation as the main visual anchors on the site.

The project reconnects Abu Dhabi’s significant heritage site surrounding the Qasr Al Hosn Fort with the modern metropolis and its inhabitants by introducing a distinctive locally-rooted urban landscape. Combining architectural interpretations of Abu Dhabi’s coastal desert landscape with exclusively indigenous plants, the design links these natural landscapes with that of the city to emphasise the significance of the relations between Emirati heritage, nature and urban life.

Arthi Balasubramanian (AB): The landscape around the Musallah is an architectural interpretation of the city’s sandbars, mangroves and the salt flats’ distinctive mud crack patterns. These shapes communicate the transition between the natural sand surrounding the Fort and the urban pavement around the Cultural Foundation.

The desert landscape changes from horizontal planes to slanting surfaces and gradually grows into actual buildings, culminating with the Musallah. It comprises a series of small, interconnected buildings that form a cave-like structure, and are pushed halfway into the park’s large central water feature.

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