The Abrahamic Family House promotes co-operation between three major religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Named after Abraham – a figure who links all three faiths – the complex comprises a mosque, a synagogue and a church. The buildings are positioned around a shared central space for worshippers and visitors to connect, learn and reflect.
Arup’s expertise in façade engineering, and our experience gained on projects across the Middle East, was vital to realising the ambition for the Abrahamic Family House. Our global network supported both our client, Arcadis, and their client, Miral. Led by our United Arab Emirates (UAE) based team, Arup experts helped with technical queries and provided specialist advice to keep the accelerated programme on track.
Completed in 2023, this interfaith complex respects the differences between the three faiths but also celebrates what they have in common. It provides a place in which diverse communities can practise their own faith, while deepening their understanding of the three Abrahamic religions.
3 distinct houses of worship
1central unit area
4years from conception to completion
Three distinct buildings united by a single theme
The project’s origins lie in the visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in 2019, when he and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, signed a fraternity agreement. To commemorate this, the government of the UAE commissioned the Abrahamic Family House as a centre for mutual co-operation and tolerance.
Following an international competition, architectural firm Adjaye Associates designed three houses of worship and a central, secular space. From the outside, the mosque, the synagogue and the church are the same size, using similar shapes and materials. Yet each building’s orientation, façade and interior are different.
Arup worked on the façades from the concept stage until completion, after Arcadis selected us based on our international experience and local knowledge. We provided an employer’s requirements work scope for the façade, and then continued as façade technical advisor throughout the project. Becoming involved early in the project enabled us to ensure that the design process went smoothly, and that the programme stayed on track despite the short timescale.
As part of the core client team, we worked closely with both Arcadis and main contractor, Zublin, to ensure that the façades fulfilled every aspect of the architect’s vision. All three façades are constructed largely from the same three materials: concrete, stone, and glass. But each has its own aesthetic, reflecting the different needs of the three faiths.
Choosing the optimum materials for the façades was critical to maintaining the form and the function of each building. For example, we reviewed how different glazing choices would affect both the appearance of the buildings and the comfort of the users inside.
The mosque features an intricate mashrabiya – a lattice-like shading that covers part of the walls. Although this was initially envisaged as glass reinforced concrete, several possible materials were evaluated until glass reinforced plastic was selected. This enabled the team to achieve the diagonal geometric pattern with a clean finish across the 470 panels that circulate air, regulate light, and provide privacy within the mosque.
A small team backed by wide-ranging technical expertise
We kept our team small and agile to build strong relationships and develop trust across the wider project team. This proved invaluable when quick decisions were needed to keep to the delivery programme.
Our core team based in the UAE called on Arup’s experts around the world for specialist advice in areas such as seismic engineering. Their in-depth knowledge ensured that a 30m-high curtain wall met the requirements for withstanding seismic activity in the region. Meanwhile, our concrete experts advised on the composition of the mix and the process required to achieve the perfect hammer-finish specified by the architect.
Since opening on schedule in March 2023, the Abrahamic Family House has been welcoming visitors from all backgrounds and beliefs. These visitors have taken the opportunity to attend services, experience the serenity of the three buildings and their gardens, and visit the central forum space. Here they have been able to learn more about three of our world’s major religions, united in this one unique complex.
Learn more about our façade engineering and design expertise.