The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market
by Foster + Partners


The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners have completed a new shopping centre that combines high-end boutiques with independent local food and craft markets on the site of a historic city marketplace in Abu Dhabi.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

The new Souk Market has been designed as a sequence of courtyards and alleys, integrating balconies and colonnades.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Sliding roofs and walls enable controlled ventilation of the market and patterned stained glass windows mark the entrances.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Photography is by Nigel Young, Foster + Partners, apart from where stated.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

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The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Photograph above is by Irfan Naqi

These details are from Foster + Partners:

Aldar Central Market, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2006-2011

Abu Dhabi’s historic Central Market is to be transformed into a dynamic new quarter with markets, shops, offices, apartments and hotels. One of the oldest sites in the city, Central Market will be a reinterpretation of the traditional market place and a new civic heart for Abu Dhabi. The project comprises a combination of lower-rise, ecologically sensitive levels of retail, roof gardens - forming a new public park - and three towers, with generous underground parking. Pushed to the corners of the site to maximise the ground plane, the cluster of towers creates a striking new urban landmark.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Like a modern version of the souk, the new Central Market will be a city in microcosm. It will unite high end retail and luxury goods shops with individual courtyards and alleys, together with food markets and craft-based trades specific to the region. Avoiding the generic feel of the universal shopping mall, the scheme will fuse the local vernacular with global aspirations.

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

While the towers relate to distance and skyline, the souk and the lower levels are scaled to the pedestrian. An intimate sequence of streets, alleys, courtyards, balconies and colonnades dissolve barriers between inside and outside, with flexible sliding roofs and walls to enable control of internal environments, and to maximise potential for natural ventilation. Like a patchwork quilt of gridded modules of varying height, the scheme is a highly articulated composition that bridges and unifies two city blocks

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

Client: Aldar Properties
Consultants: Halvorson and Partners, EC Harris International, BDSP Partnership, Emmer Pfenninger and Partners, Lerch Bates and Associates, Systematica, Warrington Fire

The Souk, Abu Dhabi Central Market by Foster + Partners

  • claire

    "…high-end boutiques with independent local food and craft markets on the site of a historic city marketplace in Abu Dhabi."

    So, first you demolish the historic market and then build this thing?! I can almost guarantee that the farmers and merchants who, not too long ago, made their living in this place (and probably lived nearby) are not the same people who are selling their goods in the "local food and craft markets". Basically, you kicked those people out, wanted their land to build 3 high profile towers on, and then tried to justify it by building this…

    • david

      claire, i used to work for the company that developed it and used to live literally right next door. they did retain as many of the existing retailers as they could. not only that, there was a fire in the existing building that damaged it and it really wasnt a comendable piece of architecture to begin with

      • nirmala

        I don’t know the actual context so won’t judge, but coming from a developing country I would just like to add that in some places “fire” is not necessarily an innocent accident.

  • chapmaniac

    dont blame foster claire you tool, considering the brief i think the old man has done a good job

  • I appreciate the point about replacing historic, local markets for new markets; however, I am glad to see that architects are considering a more pedestrian design scale and aesthetic, as well as more accessible and prosaic materiality, in these regions. Culture demolished and lost is a tangible problem in these cities since they boomed, but I am more satiated when the "offending" design has more to contribute to the streetscape than architecture on the scale of the Burj.

  • holar

    is it me or does this building look incredibly japanese?

    • howardchung

      look at those variation in the lovre sizes, colorful lightings, interplay of different materials at the balustrades…most Japs wont do that…

    • vans

      not just you, me too
      I think it's more like Korean

    • Katsudon

      That's it! I had the feeling to look at a "japanese style" restaurant in some suburbs.

  • I really liked this design when I saw it before – the courtyard has a great feature that opens the roof out in the event of rainfall, which in the souk's clime arrives with the public in open arms – but I'm not too keen on the tinted windows… besides though, that good work again by foster's

  • Grolsch Sipper

    I think the building looks very Not Arabian. Like anywhere in The Gulf, the people in the shops are likely to be Indian, Egyptian or Philipino. The original merchants would likely be living very comfortably with servents if they are still in Abu Dhabi. Architecturaly and culturaly thinking, the Arabian concept of authenticity and nature is different to our own. Of course the original building was demolished, this is the Arabian way. Qatar still has a tiny bit of its original Souq Wakif left which has been tastefully refurbished and retains the Adobe style that was common 40 years ago, however the redevelopment of the City Centre will result in the old town becoming a Greenfield Site.
    For some reason, the Arabs dont mind demolition of these treasures, if I had my way I would put a glass cube over the old souq and restore the old buildings, make that Abu Dhabi Souq famous.

  • kassim

    Claire… none of the local people who are previously farmers/merchants and had a business there are poor. Duh. It’s Abu Dhabi. Not like your country. ;)

  • onig

    After all those 'Green' hypes…..

    I don't see the differences of this mall from any other luxury shopping mall
    around the world. Of course there's high-tech HVAC underneath but, I mean
    spatially…. yes, it mimics old souk. Umm… I don't know…

  • Werner

    I think it looks Japanese too. Were it not for the occasional Mashrabiya inspired glass windows, this building could have stood in Tokyo as well.

  • joey

    if you add pitched roofs it will certainly look japanese. Nice design though

  • Another great project by Foster and + but it sure does look japanese!

  • Bert

    The photos & the wood working may look great and they are actually. However, the point that everyone missed out is : "this is a mall" and believe me the worst that i have seen in terms of wayfinding, stores, branding and window displaying. Actrually, there are no windows for stores to display, you need to step in each store one by one, all the brandings done based on the regulations of the mall and none of the store logos etc. are colorful – just wooden – and that's why really not easy to find out what is where from a distance. To keep it short, it is a really good example for a perfect wood design and workmanship, but I don't think it answers the brief as a mall. Cheers.

  • anthony

    this is so japanese, or east-asian inspired looking, doesn't scream abu dhabi to me, but i like it

  • Rusty

    The pictures really capture the atmosphere of a public market:

    de-cluttered, Empty, Clean and ….oh no wait…

    Great details and materials though.