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Qasr Al Hosn is an Ancient Building in Abu Dhabi
It is a well preserved cultural monument that provides an insight into the preservation of other cultural monuments. Qasr Al Hosn is thought to have been built between 1761 and 1793. The interior yard of the building was designed using traditional Arab style architecture and knowledge. Some of the materials used for the interior finish include the sea stones, the coral stones, mangrove poles and the date palms. The two fortified round towers are located to the south-west and north-east corners of the fort, whereas the rectangular tower (Muraba) is at the north-west corner (Al-Awadhi n.p).
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The fort has two wings that were used for the purposes of accommodation; the south wing was meant for women, while the east wing doubled up as accommodation for men and as an administrative wing. Although Qasr Al Hosn is artistically good-looking to the eye, it was designed purposefully as a defense headquarter and not only a decorative structure. The palace is dotted with equidistant and symmetrical slots which are located at varying heights. The design allowed the guards to take the required positions to defend the palace whether they were kneeling, standing or lying on their stomachs (Al-Awadhi n.p).
The interior of Qasr Al Hosn was culturally and authoritatively designed to create an experiential space so that the coffee tradition and the heart of Emirate culture can be distinctively seen and celebrated (Beech 31). The walls are full of coral and sea stones; as a result, they are a little rough due to the mortar made from ground coral and crashed sea shell. Entrance wall is decorated with seashells to create a feeling of ancestral home, imposing fort and a palace. At the middle of the fort, there is a noticeable Barjeel, a traditional ventilation system which is an ancient form of air conditioning. The interior of the building is designed to redirect cooling wind breeze into the rooms through a network of wind channels (Mutwalli 7). A closer examination of the interior gives an exposure to the wall décor, wooden architecture, storage system and small rooms used by the rulers’ family (Mutwalli 7).
The iconic building was constructed to protect fresh water well (Maitra 262). Being a fortress, the visible thing is the huge coral rocks that were used to construct the building. The inclusion of the ugly coral rocks on the outside was intended to scare the invaders. The vision moves to the Sarooj mortar, then to expansive water well that gives at impression of plenty, peace, simplicity, durability, and functionality. Also visible in the design is the original Arabic floor that is created with elementarism and geometry contributing to exploring the potentials of fundamental elements and a pursuit of beauty and harmony (Maitra 262). The furniture creates the feel of hospitality and comfort; it gives an impression of calm and contention. The pattern gives visual weights to scary objects in front as it slowly appears to be more welcoming with warm objects towards the center of the Qars Al Hosn fort. The pattern has a projection that is more of solid design principle than a pattern. At the focal point is the water well which is the dominant element.
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The luminal or transitional areas at the Qasr Al Hosn tower have been used creatively and attractively. Their constructive use greatly improved the beauty of the interior outlook. The artifacts from the sea are hanged on the wall to maintain culture and to show importance of the sea to the Bani Yas tribe. Some ancient paintings on the walls of the narrow corridors make the building addictive and an excitement to the art-starved Abu Dhabi city residents. The floors of the corridor are artistically made of shiny sea pebbles; they were meant to create harmony, because the corridor was used as a resting place for the ruler’s family. The pebbles on the floor and countless artifacts on the wall corridors look artistically impressive. The simplicity of the art in luminal areas and the impression of happiness it creates serve to demonstrate that the available materials, if arranged in a creative way, can give artistic result.
Before Qasr al Hosn was renovated in 1980s, natural lighting served as the main lighting system in the inner space during the day and fuel lamps at night (Abed Vine and Hallyer 19). The daylight was the source of energy that drove all the activities in the fort. It was essential for the sustainability of life by maintaining biological rhythm and hormonal cycles. Provision of natural light seemed to be one of the fundamental elements of architecture of the fort. The introduction of artificial internal and external lighting during renovation brought out striking yet sensitive details of the monument that enhanced key architectural elements and brought them to life. The resultant attractive lit environment has generated income through the increased tourist flow and extended the fort view time, and the feedback from the tourists has always been positive since the renovation (Beech 30).
The brown color of material-mud brick, dry stone, wood and thatch, and palm tracks shows the characteristics of Emirate’s coastal sediments (Mutwalli 16). The time-honored and connection with the sea gives a clear insight into the country’s past. Moreover, the color of material depicts the hot, dry and sandy climate which inspires the Islamic architecture towards the tendency of simplicity, durability and functionality in design. The rough texture of materials used depicts the harsh desert environment, in which the fort is built. In addition, the rough texture of the materials used increases the surface area of the coral rocks used for the fort to absorb heat during the hot day and release it in the cold nights, successfully insulating the building from the harsh weather conditions of the area. Rough brown color initially gave Qasr Al Holn a distinctive, domineering and scary character that a defensive fortress should possess.
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Renovation of Qasr Al Hosni in 1980s has given a distinctive white color to the structure to suite the purpose of the building (the residence of the sheikh of the Al Nahyan family and further role as the seat of government). The thick white coating of cement added in the exterior during renovation has trapped some damaging moisture in the wall. The removal of the outer layer restored the building to its original form, color and texture and therefore promoted the culture, leveraging the heritage and restoring the symbol of culture of the Emiratis as revealed by the original interior design of Qars al Hosn (Baldwin 245-246).
Aesthetics is concerned with the beauty and art used in the making of the fort. It is about how a person perceives the building or makes judgment upon information from five human sensory inputs. Aesthetics has effect on mood, emotion, and feeling. The fossilized coral stone coastal bricks used in the construction of Qasr Al Hosn show the characteristics of coastal Emirati architecture. The interior masonry demonstrates the Emirati time-honored and ongoing connection with the sea. Additionally, it offers a vivid insight into the country’s past. Mud brick, dry stone, wood and thatch, and palm trunk are local Emirati materials that inspire functionality and simplicity in design. The shape of the whole building was influenced by vernacular construction models. The structure also depicts the traditional desert building technology that the Emiratis is famous for. They feature in the design of the wind towers that have been used in the Arabian buildings for centuries. The slanted curves on the outer walls redirect wind from the coast into the airway system, removing stale air and refreshing the inside of the building (Mutwalli 16).
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Furnishings tell about the specific style of design or the work of a specific designer. Some designers go for essentials: expert joinery, solid construction and straight line. The other designers are vanguard of the movement, producing mission-style white oak cabinets and spindle chairs. In the tower, the furnishings were in Arabic design which is flamboyant and rich, with many intricate, ornate, decorative features. It had an expensive materials used in furniture such as the teak and mahogany with curves, spirals and ovals which are all dominant features in Arabic design (Mutwalli 18). The element that made the building attractive to me was the Barjeel; a traditional system of ventilation and the ancient form of air conditioning, which spread the fresh air in all the rooms.
In brief, both the exterior and interior finishes of Qasr Al Hosn are marvelous; its traditional meaning has not lost a place in the hearts of the people of Emirates. The interior design is quite warm and inviting, the reason why it attract people from all walks of life. Few years ago, the Emirates government started showcasing arts, music, dancing, acrobatic, tours, artisan’s workshops and informative exhibitions to reincarnate the sense of nationhood in the Emirates. At the 2014 event, a huge number of tourists were present to view the design and architecture of the building. The finish of the building and the internal design decorations often amaze visitors. Qasr Al Hosn has consequently served as the symbol of Emirati arts and cultural heritage for many years and will continue doing so many years to come due to its unique interior and exterior designs.
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