The Abrahamic Family House by Safdie Architects
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Status: Unbuilt, 2019
With an underlying concept of Diversity Within Unity, the project brings together a mosque, synagogue and church within a shared public park. The design of each religion’s unique and specific worship space evokes the history, traditions, and rituals of the particular religion. Seen together, they form an integrated and unified whole.
Each of the three worship halls is conceived as a variation of the sphere. Considered a sacred form, the sphere symbolizes oneness, and the equity before god of all who worship. Its variants, the dome and the circle, are recurring symbols in the sacred buildings of all Abrahamic religions. Set in a body of water, it creates an oasis within the desert environment where water is the embodiment of life. The three worship halls hover above, and reflect in the pond, giving them a sense of magical weightlessness, seeking the ephemeral. They touch the earth lightly over their foundations, as they rise towards the heavens, shimmering in the light.
The master plan is organized with its major public entrance and services on the south, abutting the neighborhood behind. The Mosque, Synagogue, and Church are entered off a common plaza which abuts the principle gateway. The public, arriving for worship and festivities, at different times that will sometimes coincide, mingle in the entry piazza. The Mosque is placed on the axis of Mecca (i.e. towards the West); the Synagogue, on the axis facing Jerusalem; the Church, with a more flexible tradition of orientation, faces the North. As the public arrives they face The Visitor Center which is placed below this Piazza in the cool shelter within the pond.
The three halls employ a common construction methodology and treatment of materials. A lattice structure of steel, in-part opaque, in-part translucent, in places transparent, brings in soft filtered light. At night, the lattice structures transform, glowing like giant lanterns in the landscape. The Visitor’s Center is formed at the intersection of three praying halls. Set at the level of the reflecting pond, it is enclosed with glass and surrounded by water on all sides, with views up to the worship halls.