Multidisciplinary architecture office CEBRA has been commissioned to develop a masterplan that preserves Abu Dhabi’s oldest building, the Qasr Al Hosn Fort, in addition to redeveloping its surrounding urban landscape.
Located on a 400 x 400m site, the Qasr Al Hosn Fort was built in the 18th century as a coral and sea stone watchtower by the Bani Yas tribes in Abu Dhabi.
First built for defensive purposes, the site then became a royal palace and a seat of government, which saw completion of the oil deals that shaped the entire region’s future.
Commissioned by Abu Dhabi’s Departmentof Culture and Tourism, Denmark and Abu Dhabi-based CEBRA has been tasked to “reinstate the Fort in a coastal landscape”, in addition to recognising the city’s urban growth.
The masterplan includes a new public park around the building, as well as the modernisation of the adjacent Cultural Foundation Building (CFB). The project also features the National Consultative Centre – with all three building making up the cultural heart of Abu Dhabi, with an aim to celebrate Emirati heritage and identity.
“The core tenet of the Qasr Al Hosn master plan is to preserve its rich historic value and transform the fort and surrounding areas into a tourism and cultural destination in the heart of the capital,” the architects said.
CEBRA’s masterplan divides the site diagonally into two parts, with each hosting a distinctive identity that marks its traditional heritage, but also celebrates the city’s modernisation and urban development.
One side of the development focuses on the “modern heritage area” around the CFB, featuring “a more man-made, geometrical expression of hard surfaces for a series of activities”.
The other side of the development focuses on the traditional heritage of the site surrounding the fort with an aim to re-establish the original setting of “a solitary building on a sand plane”.
“Two different geometries accentuate this duality: an urban/cultural city grid structure versus a more organic and natural mud crack coastal desert landscape”, the architects explained.
The public park that is integrated within the masterplan starts out as a flat surface to the south of the site and rises towards the north where it forms a series of buildings for various cultural activities and programmes. These buildings are subtly integrated into the park’s surface, blending into the landscape.
In 2014, the Qasr Al Hosn Fort was under threat from its previous restoration completed over 30 years ago which included a white façade made from cement and gypsum that trapped moisture and began corroding the original coral walls of the structure. Read designMENA’s interview with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority about the restoration of the Fort.
The Fort is also home to the annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which celebrates Abu Dhabi’s traditional heritage as well as its modernisation through a series of programmes and activities.
Sharjah has also recently announced the completion of the Bait Al Naboodah restoration which now sees the 173 year old house of a wealthy pearl merchant converted into a museum about the pearl trade in the emirate.