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Aldar Central Market souk Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Central Market redevelopment is a mixed-used project located in the Central Business District of the Emirate city. The Central Market Project consists of a complex of three skyscrapers, one supertall, that are under construction in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Construction of the three towers was scheduled to end in 2010 and a total project completion date of 2014, including the Emporium and The Souk and the four star Marriot Courtyard Hotel and five star Marriot Renaissance hotel.

Aldar-Central-Market-souk-Abu-Dhabi-By-Foster-Partners-02-759x423 Aldar Central Market souk Abu Dhabi / Foster + Partners

© Foster & Partners

Located in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi, is a mixed use redevelopment scheme, incorporating luxury apartments, and an Arabian souk, alongside retail, office, leisure, and entertainment facilities. With a total area of 64,264 sqm, the development has three towers that house an 88 storey residential tower, a 58 storey office tower, and a five star hotel with 250 rooms and 200 serviced apartments.

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© Foster & Partners

The idea is to bring the traditional marketplace into the 21st century with offices, residences, hotels, and, of course, shopping areas. The design of the two-block shopping area plays off the concept of the souk, or market: The mini-city will be filled with small courtyards and pedestrian-friendly alleys and will include low-rise buildings. Shops will offer a mix of global, luxury brands (yet to be announced) and local merchants. Plans for many of the buildings include roof gardens. To keep a contemporary look, Foster + Partners also is designing a set of three towers to create a new landmark for the Abu Dhabi skyline.

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© Foster & Partners

Foster + Partners reveals designs to transform Abu Dhabis historic Central Market 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.

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.

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© 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.

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© Foster & Partners

“Fosters have taken the concept of the shaded souk and applied it to the mall. Deep or dappled shade, fountains and pools that aid cooling, networks of courtyards, alleys and squares are all elements of Arabic architecture and here they are used to facilitate an indoor-outdoor architecture wherein roof and wall panels slide to enclose or open up the building according to the time of year.” – RIBA

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© Foster & Partners


The USD 1.2 billion redevelopment features a mixed use scheme encompassing a traditional souk, luxury shopping, high quality restaurants, modern and well-proportioned apartments, two hotels and state of the art office accommodation.

The redevelopment involves construction of a five storey basement for parking with a built up area of 61,000 sq. m. and a three storey souq with a built up area of 26,000 sq. m and parking for over 5,000 cars. The 88-storey residential tower will be 382 meters high, currently the tallest tower on Abu Dhabi’s skyline. It houses 489 luxury apartments. The five star hotel tower, 55 storeys high, with 279 rooms and 132 serviced apartments. The office tower, 58 storeys of prime office space, while the smallest tower of 16 storeys, being a four star hotel with 212 rooms.

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© Aldar Properties

A retail bridge will also be constructed crossing Khalifa Street, the main high street in Abu Dhabi, it is this bridge that benefits from the use of Lytag ® lightweight aggregate concrete (LWAC), reducing the insitu dead weight. In excess of 3000m3 of 40Mpa Lytag® LWAC being supplied for the decking and concourse areas of the structure.

Lord Norman Foster, Chairman and founder of leading architectural firm Fosters + Partners, visited Central Market, Aldar’s major redevelopment of the traditional commercial heart of Abu Dhabi, last Thursday 25 November. The firm was appointed in 2006 to design the towers and unique retail spaces which have already become a key landmark.

The SOUK at Central Market opened its doors to customers in August and has seen a steady stream of retailers launching their stoes. An interpretation of the traditional souk destroyed by fire in 2003, the new centre features modern and contemporary Arabic architecture to create a vibrant retail environment. Lord Foster’s visit also included a demonstration of the retractable roof in the Al Dhabi square of the SOUK.

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© Beno Saradzic

Good progress has been made on Emporium, Central Market’s prestigious shopping address and Abu Dhabi’s prime fashion destination. Anchored by the first House of Fraser department store in the region, this elegant multi‐level shopping centre stretches across 62,000 sq m featuring 170 shops.

Trust Tower, which will become the tallest dedicated Grade A office building in the city at 278m, reached its full 59‐storey height in July 2010. Construction efforts are focussed on installing the building’s facade which is now over 80% complete. Fitting of internal services and finishes are also underway.

The residential tower, The Domain, has reached 85‐storeys, with works on the complicated structural ringbeam at the top of the building due to complete at the end of the year. Installation of the glass facade is over 50% complete.

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© Irfan Naqi

“I am pleased to welcome Lord Foster and his team to Central Market, where his firm’s exciting designs have become a reality. It was essential that our flagship redevelopment of the commercial centre of Abu Dhabi was sympathetic to the historical importance of the site whilst creating a vibrant environment that chimes with the city’s contemporary Arab culture. I am pleased to say that the Fosters + Partners design helped us to deliver our vision for Central Market.” – Sami Asad, Chief Executive Officer of Aldar, said

“I’m delighted to be here, to walk through the souk at Central Market and to see work progressing with the current phase of the project. In its intensity and scale, the traditional Eastern market place is set apart from its European equivalent. Our aim was to combine many of the traditional elements of the souk with a contemporary experience. ” Aldars Central Market captures the souk’s special qualities of dappled sunlight and its variety of colours, sights and sounds. The project echoes the dense network of alleyways and squares with a variety of spaces that invite exploration.” – Lord Foster, Chairman and founder of Fosters + Partners, added:

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The Trust Tower:

The office tower, called the Trust Tower, is planned to rise 278 m (912 ft) and have 59 floors, with projected completion in Q2 of 2012.

Trust Tower is a 72,000-square-metre grade-A premium office building located in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s city centre, and part of ALDAR’s redevelopment of the Central Market site. At the forefront of Trust Tower’s design is sustainability, and careful consideration has been taken to balance the environmental impact of its development, whilst creating high-quality office space that will meet the needs of its user and business occupants.

The design is currently undergoing a LEED Core & Shell Version 2 pre-certification review by the US Green Building Council and is anticipated to achieve a Gold rating.

The building is anticipated to achieve a 25% reduction in energy consumption by utilizing intelligent lighting systems, the most state-of-the-art and efficient HVAC and building management systems. A 30% reduction in potable water consumption is expected with the installation of efficient water-fixtures, and a 100% reduction in potable water consumption for irrigation will be demonstrated, by strictly recycling condensate from air conditioning systems for low-hydration plants. By practicing responsible procurement, 95% of the wood used will have been sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, to ensure the mitigation of indirect environmental damage. The tower is also scheduled to be equipped with a tenant recycling system which will collect and correctly dispose of all recyclables.

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© Irfan Naqi

The Domain Tower:

The tallest building, The Domain Tower, is set to become the tallest building in Abu Dhabi and the skyscraper with the most floors in the city upon its completion in 2013/14. The residential building will stand 381 metres (1,250 ft) tall and contain 88 floors. The complex contains a shorter office and hotel building, which also will be among the tallest in the city.

At The Domain, the concrete structure now stands at level 84. External glazing, being carried out in tandem, has now reached 79 storeys. It is expected that work on the top of the building’s steel structure will begin in July. Over the last three months, the blockwork partitioning the apartments has been completed up to level 30.

  • At 378m, The Domain is Abu Dhabi’s tallest building
  • The Domain will include the world’s highest swimming pool, at 338m
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Foster + Partners:

Abu Dhabi’s 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 market place, giving the city a new civic heart. By offering an alternative to the globalised one-size-fits-all shopping mall it offers a distinctive modern interpretation of the regional vernacular. As a shopping experience it combines luxury goods boutiques with food markets and craft-based trades. Like the traditional souk, these different experiences are brought together in an interior architecture of dappled sunlight, bright colours and fountains, with a changing rhythm of squares, courtyards and alley ways.

For up to six months of the year the climate here is very pleasant – comfortable enough to stroll and sit outside. That has inspired a sequence of public routes and squares in which the barriers between inside and outside are dissolved. Open at night as well as during the day, these new spaces provide an important central venue in the city during festivals and celebrations and are cooled naturally when conditions allow. For the remainder of the year, the spaces can be enclosed by roof panels that slide into place to enable the internal environment to be controlled more closely. The perforations in the roof and interior panels – a pattern developed with a scholar of Islamic arts – continue outside, wrapping the podium building in a textured facade. The design of the panels is based on octagonal forms, which reference both traditional zellij tilework and more recent research into mathematical geometry.

Continuing the greenery of Abu Dhabi, the site is generously landscaped, the roofs of the podium buildings forming a series of terraced gardens.

Rising above this dense, close-grained ‘mat’ is a cluster of tall buildings, which vary in height and massing depending on whether they contain offices, apartments 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. Layers of internal shading on the towers control glare and solar gain.

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About – Aldar Properties:

ALDAR Properties PJSC is a leading property development company, with strong investment and management capabilities. ALDAR was established primarily to create world-class real estate developments for the nation of Abu Dhabi, whilst providing a stable and profitable investment portfolio for all of its investors. It is dedicated to achieving new standards of innovation, excellence and value in urban design and sustainable development. Its priority is the immediate and future benefit of Abu Dhabi and its residents. The company is owned by leading Abu Dhabi institutions, founder shareholders and over 20,616 investors throughout the UAE. ALDAR ‘s principal corporate shareholders include Mubadala Development Company , Abu Dhabi Investment Company, Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company, National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels and National Investor. Central to the success of ALDAR are more than 200 multi-disciplinary staff providing expertise and knowledge from around the globe.

  • Aldar’s diverse property portfolio includes major developments and re-developments within Abu Dhabi including Yas Island, Al Raha Beach, Central Market, Al Falah, Nareel Island, and Noor Al Ain. The company owns over 50 million square metres of land in strategic locations throughout the Emirate.
Aldar-Central-Market-souk-Abu-Dhabi-By-Foster-Partners-render-15 Aldar Central Market souk Abu Dhabi / Foster + Partners

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Project Data:

Project name: Aldar Central Market
Location: Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Coordinates: 24.487553, 54.356822
Type: Mixed Use, Market
Area: 607,000 sqm
Height: 378 m
Appointment: 2006
Construction start: 2011
Status: Built
Cost: USD 1.2 billion
Completion Year: souk market – 2013, Trust Tower & Domain Tower – ongoing


  • 2013 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA International Awards – Winner
  • 2013 – MAPIC EG Retail & Future Project Awards – Category: BCSC International Trends – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Aldar Properties
Architects: Foster + Partners – Riverside, 22 Hester Road, London, SW11 4AN, United Kingdom
Collaborating Architect: Planar
Structural Engineer: Halvorson and Partners
Quantity Surveyor: EC Harris International
M+E Engineer: BDSP Partnership
Additional Consultants: DPA Lighting Consultants, Lerch Bates and Associates, Warrington Fire, Emmer Pfenninger and Partners, Systematica
Project manager: WS Atkins
Main Contractor:

  • Car Park – Mushrif NationalContracting
  • Souk and Buildings – Arabian Construction Co.

Cladding specialist contractor: Shenyang Yuanda
Cost consultant: EC Harris International
Fire consultant: Exova Warrington Fire
Facade consultant: Arup
Readymix supplier: Readymix Abu Dhabi / ALDAR Readymix
Text Description: © Courtesy of  Foster + Partners, Aldar Properties
Images: © Foster + Partners, Aldar Properties, Nigel Young, Irfan Naqi, Beno Saradzic


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Aldar Central Market souk Abu Dhabi / Foster + Partners
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