- It is an interfaith complex that accommodates a church, a mosque, and the Gulf Arab state’s first-ever purpose-built synagogue.
Known to have designed many notable buildings around the world including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C, Sir David Frank Adjaye, a Ghanaian-British architect has also designed the new interfaith complex called the “Abrahamic Family House”, inaugurated by the United Arab Emirates. The interfaith complex houses a mosque, a church, and the Gulf Arab state’s first-ever purpose-built synagogue.
Born on September 22, 1966, Sir David Adjaye became the first African recipient and one of the youngest after the Royal Gold Medal in 2021. In 2017 he was also decorated with the New year Honours for services to architecture. In 2022, he received an Order of Merit appointment.
Sir David designed The Abrahamic Family House project to incorporate the several architectural styles traditionally found in mosques, churches, and synagogues around the world. It is a place for learning, dialogue, and worship, as well as a cultural landmark that embodies the shared values of peaceful coexistence and understanding among the three Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
During the inauguration of the interfaith complex on March 1st, UAE authorities described the design’s distinctive geometric architecture, which consists of three cubes. The Abu Dhabi Government Media Office has stated that the “structure symbolizes the unifying commonality and mutual cohabitation of the three religions while invoking the traditional architecture and keeping the individualism of each of the three faiths”.
The three places of worship were dedicated to the prominent people of its faith. The Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque is named after the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the leading authority on Sunni Islam which is oriented towards Mecca. The windows of the mosque are made of delicate latticework that is called Mashrabiya. It is also designed in a way that allows for the circulation of air while regulating and maintaining privacy.
Speaking to CNN, Sir David mentioned that all the projects are all about “a filtering of light, a splitting of light”. He said, “in the mosque, the light surrounds you until you get to the silence and the stoicness of facing Mecca”.
The church is named after Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and dedicated to the 13th-century monk St. Francis of Assisi. The church is oriented towards the rising sun in the east, with the ceiling made of timber to invoke the biblical and Quranic story of Noah’s Ark. Sir David said that in the church “you hear the sound of rushing water” because he feels that “water is so important in Christianity”. He described the church as an “Ark in the World”.
The Synagogue is named after Moses Ben Maimon, a 12th-century Jewish philosopher known as Rabbi Maimonides. It is the first purpose-built Jewish place of worship in UAE and is oriented towards Jerusalem like several synagogues around the world. According to Sir David, “the light of the mid-day kisses the rabbi in the center very directly”.
Each structure is a cube of 30 meters (98 ft) by 30 meters and is entirely unique, with a unifying concept that provides a common ground for encouraging tolerance and understanding.