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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Interview with Sir David Adjaye, Architect of the Abraham Family Residence in Abu Dhabi


Sir David Adjaye sits quietly on his lap with his young son in his lap in one of the back rows of oak pews at Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Seems eager to blend in with the crowd.At noon that Sunday, as the bright midday sun streamed into the temple, the architects of the Abraham Family Home immersed themselves in the moment as some 325 guests gathered to celebrate February 19 The opening of the synagogue.

“Hello, Rabbi! I’m caught,” the award-winning Ghanaian-British architect smiled humorously a moment later, addressing the synagogue’s chief rabbi, Yehuda, as Sarna passed him. Rabbi Sarnah says hello.as jewish insider When interviews with Adjaye began, several admirers of his work quickly heard who he was and began eagerly asking him for inspiration for three iconic houses of worship—a Catholic church, a mosque and a The side-by-side synagogues are part of a vast interfaith complex on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi’s cultural hub.

Photo: Dror Baldinger

“The deep history of all religions,” says Adajye, was the inspiration for the synagogue, named after the 12th-century rabbinic philosopher Maimonides, the church of St Francis of Assisi, named after St Francis of Assisi, and the imam Al-Tayeb Source Mosque, named after the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.

“The concept is three temples, 30 x 30 x 30 [meters] – three. three towers. So if you notice every room, every volume and height is equal from outside to outside,” Adajye, 56, told JI. “So they are three equal forms. But in each — three different atmospheres. “

Each cubic chapel in the 6,500-square-meter complex includes a courtyard with a water feature and ancillary spaces specific to its religious traditions and practices. The houses are connected by an elevated garden.

Adjaye’s inspiration for the synagogue facing Jerusalem came from the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The crisscrossing beams that reach up to the roof allow light to filter in through the gaps, representing the palm fronds or plants that cover the sukka, allowing the congregation to “look up to the sky,” Adajye said.

Photo: Dror Baldinger

Adjaye, whose works include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the National Cathedral of Ghana, initially wanted to open the roof, but noted that this was not possible due to technical reasons.

A bronze mesh tent – ​​emblematic of the original Tabernacle and known to include a bronze laver pot – pours down from a skylight in the ceiling, which allows midday sunlight in and creates dappled light effects, a theme that runs throughout three chapels.

In the chapel, a distinctive feature of vertical wooden beams of different lengths hanging from the ceiling allows a similar play on natural light. The church faces east, towards the direction of the rising sun, as light is considered a symbol of divinity.

Photo: Dror Baldinger

“The idea of ​​the New Testament, is that the Spirit of the Lord is with you. So it’s about the energy of the Lord, and it encompasses the whole room, not just the altar. So you come in, you’re under this wood shower,” Adjaye explained . “What does that wood shower do? It splits the light. So that’s another idea of ​​dappled light bathing the congregation.”

Photo: Dror Baldinger

In the mosque facing Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, Adajye emphasized the four-column internal grid that creates nine rising vaults that lead visitors to mihrab, or the niche facing Mecca. According to a fact sheet about the Holy Site, the four pillars “reference Islamic concepts of stability, order and fulfillment, which are attributed to the number four.”

Adjaye said the design of the mosque is about “breathing, the word of God”.

“Basically what you have is Islamic geometry, turning to the idea of ​​geometry, creating a screen between the columns, and then creating dappled light again, filtering the light,” he explained.

Photo: Dror Baldinger

“So what I want to talk about is also the concept of light and God, when we talk about the divine, that’s part of the whole vibe we get into.”

Born a Christian, Adajye delved into Judaism and Islam while conducting research for this project. “It’s been an incredible education,” he said.

The architect, originally from Ghana’s capital, Accra, spent a considerable amount of time in the UAE while constructing the buildings. “I think what Abu Dhabi has done by opening up is very strong,” he said.

Adajye described the February 4, 2019 document signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, on human fraternity for world peace and living together as a “critical statement “.

Photo: Dror Baldinger

“I think doing it here, on this continent, is so symbolic and powerful. I hope it has a ripple effect in the world,” he added.

Sitting inside the Moses Ben Maimon synagogue on the first day of prayer was a meaningful moment for Adajye. “It was a magical moment to see how packed this place was,” he said.

“I always love the moment when something we’ve been doing, something we’ve been doing in our head, suddenly gets taken over by people,” the architect continued. “They know how to use it because of the rituals and patterns of what these things mean. So it’s beautiful. It’s always humbling.”

At the opening ceremony, Adjaye received After Rabbi Sarna singled him out in his sermon, there was loud applause – ending the apparent moment of the architect blending unnoticed into the congregation gathered under the mesh tent-like canopy he had created. plan.


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