Building on Tradition
Impressively high and intricately decorated, modern skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi merge contemporary architecture with Islamic influences.
What is fascinating to discover is how the UAE’s present-day architecture is influenced by the region’s more humble beginnings.
During the late 1800s, the Arabian Peninsula was characterized by courtyard-style houses that were built from gypsum and coral stone. Charming in construction and size, these historical buildings were built according to the climactic conditions that influenced life in the Gulf. While houses were constructed to keep in cool air during the extreme desert heat as well as protect against sandstorms, traditional Arabian dwellings were also built according to cultural and religious concerns. For example, historic Arabian houses each had a majlis, the “place of sitting” in Arabic, which were cornerstone areas to the Emirati house where family and relatives would regularly gather.
Today, contemporary dwellings incorporate a similar structure while the city’s panoramic skyscrapers often fuse references to Islamic décor. For instance, the futuristic Aldar headquarters building is distinctive for its circular shape and also for its steel diagrid design that echoes patterns in Islamic architecture as well as elements from the surrounding desert landscape. Additionally, the architects were inspired by the clam shell which holds a deep meaning for Abu Dhabi given the city’s seafaring heritage as well as its symbolic geometric shape which echoes principle patterns in Islamic design. In architecture, the circle symbolizes unity, rationality and stability. It also references infinity; it is a form without a beginning or an end.