The historic Abu Dhabi Central Market is one of the oldest sites in the city. Inspired by the traditional architecture of the Gulf, this scheme aims to reinvent the marketplace as a contemporary mixed-use complex and give the city a new civic heart. By proposing an alternative to the globalized ‘one-size-fits-all’ shopping mall, it offers a distinctive modern interpretation of regional vernacular construction, and in it, as in the traditional souk, different kinds of experiences – ranging from luxury goods shops to food markets and craft-based trade stores – are combined in an interior architecture with a changing rhythm of squares, courtyards and alleyways succeeding one another amid vibrant colours, running water and dappled sunlight. Rising above this dense, close-grained ‘mat’ are three towers, each with a separate address, which vary in height and bulk, depending on whether they contain offices, residences or a combination of a hotel and serviced apartments. Visually they form a family, with smooth reflective facades designed to need little maintenance in this dusty desert environment. To maximise the ground plane, the towers are grouped close together, but spaced sufficiently apart to guarantee privacy and views. The effect is a harmonious cluster, a symbol for this central site and a new landmark and reference in the Abu Dhabi skyline.
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