ministries complex

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Davis Buckley Architects (DBA) was invited to participate as one of three design teams in a paid international design competition for the new three million square foot Ministerial Building complex.  The request by the Prime Minister was to design and present two schemes; one that was “contemporary,” one “traditional.”  The images represent the different architectural aesthetic approaches. 


The traditional scheme involved the creation of a grand central public space shared by each of the ministerial buildings in the complex.  The traditional design takes aesthetic clues from the Alhambra, a world landmark of Moorish design.  A formal axis is established between the Mosque, which orients toward Mekka, opposite the building that houses the Prime Minister Deputy Prime Minister and other offices.  Of the central axis, a series of smaller public courts are established on cross axes that provide orientation and access to the ministerial buildings.  Midway between these two major iconic buildings, the Mosque and Prime Minister’s building is a major cross axis defining two large public spaces.  The entire complex is covered with a hard translucent fabric structure to ameliorate the effects of the environment. The fabric “clouds” manipulate the sunlight, creating a chiaroscuro effect across the plaza, provided much needed areas of shade in this desert environ.


The contemporary design approach was conceived as being seen from the highway at high speeds.  The buildings are grouped into a dense complex form, with each ministerial component expressed as a subtle shift in geometry while maintaining the 9.6M x 9.6M grid used throughout both schemes.  The building’s exterior skin is a metal mesh allowed to float freely, expressing the form’s crystal jewel-like appearance.


In both schemes, the complex is raised above a parking level and transit rail system that provides direct access to the buildings.  Aesthetically, the schemes are architecturally opposites, however structurally they maintain the same structural grid. Both schemes utilize state-of-the-art sustainable building design systems and material finishes.  While the Ministerial Buildings project did not proceed, DBA was selected to participate as a design architect on a significant themed entertainment and museum destination complex, Yas Island, in Abu Dhabi.