The adaptive reuse and substantial addition to Qasr al Muwaiji, a historic fort and grounds within the city of Al Ain, is intended to serve as a comprehensive learning, research and exhibition facility that is committed to preserving and providing access to collections relating to Gulf history. The Centre will be dedicated to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the United Arab Emirates, who was born within the Fort.
Principal elements of the project include a permanent exhibition located within the refurbished fort that culminates in a tour of the original rooms of the historic Palace. The new structure is clad entirely in glass, offering unobstructed views of the grand Fort, and bearing lightly on its hollowed grounds. A research centre is to be built immediately outside the Fort, but contiguous to it, and is carefully integrated within the surrounding date palm grove.
An open ground floor offers a seamless extension of the landscape, while an upper story with library, reading rooms, classrooms and offices is hidden within the canopy of the trees. A multi-use auditorium, café, bookstore, temporary exhibit space and archives is concealed underground in a lower story. The center of the complex is dominated by a dramatic three-story atrium that serves as a multi-use assembly space for outdoor activities year-round, and is embellished with vertically planted walls, a shade canopy and a wood deck suspended over a reflecting pool. This space, on axis with the Fort Palace, is anchored at the opposite end by a full-height glass tower that houses research archive materials.
The complex offers uninterrupted access to a vast garden set under the continuous canopy of the trees, and includes a range of amenities such as fountains, pedestrian plazas and shaded parking. The date palm grove itself is preserved as a working plantation, and is fed by an active and decorative falaj system to recall the traditional farming practice.
The project will be executed in two phases. Phase 1 is currently under construction, and encompasses the exhibition building within the Fort, ancillary plant rooms and restoration to the historic structures. Construction documents are being completed for Phase 2, which is comprised of the Research Centre and its surrounding landscape.