By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
It has only been two weeks since award-winning architect Sir David Adjaye Obe received the news that the plans he submitted for the Abrahamic Family House had been selected. The project was first announced in February by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince. It is the first initiative to embody the ideals of the Document on Human Fraternity. Sir David Adjaye Obe was introduced and his model for the project was unveiled at the Celebration of Human Fraternity in New York City on Friday. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in 2020. The project may be completed by 2022.
Three buildings, one foundation
A church, a synagogue and a mosque will share the same foundation. It will be a landmark in the United Arab Emirates, located on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Above all, it will mark a significant transformation in human history. As Msgr. Yoannes Gaid explained, it will turn what has been used in the past as a means of division among peoples, into a point of contact.
New architectural typology
Sr David Adjaye said that the project will represent a new typology of world architecture. “There has never been a building which houses the three faiths in one form”, he said. Rather than mixing the three, up he wanted to preserve “the unique experience of each of the faiths” while at the same time “connecting them all with one device”.
The connection Mr Adjaye decided on is a garden -- an image that has important significance in each of the world’s three major religions. Each of the houses of worship can be peered into from the vantage point of the raised garden, which will house an educational centre. The three worship spaces have the same dimensions but orient in the direction and contain structural elements inherited within each specific faith tradition.
Architecture at the service of peace
Mr Adjaye explained that leaders have always come together with architects to “discuss how to make structures that mean things in the world—for civilizations or for a sense of ourselves”. He feels that the Abrahamic Family House project fits within this paradigm. On a personal level, he saw the opportunity to create a building that is completely conflict-free. To create a structure that conveys the message of peace “is a very powerful sort of thinking”, he said. “It’s not about territory and it’s not about us and them. It’s about all. And that’s really, really strong”.
Once in a generation moment
Describing what it was like to have his submission chosen, Mr Adjaye said that it feels like a “once in a generation moment”. As soon as he and his colleagues got over the shock of the announcement, he said that he felt “deeply humbled to have the opportunity to build such a thing in the world”.
About Mr Adjaye
Sir David Adjaye OBE was born in Tanzania of Ghanaian parents. In 2000 he opened his own studio, Adjaye Associates. He is noted for an ingenious use of materials combined with a sculptural ability. Mr Adjaye has contributed to the construction of important buildings in the United States, the United Kingdom, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, situated on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and completed in 2016, is his largest project to date.