The extent of behind-the-scenes work to conserve Qasr Al Hosn, the symbolic birthplace of Abu Dhabi and a valuable monument of Emirati traditional heritage, has been disclosed following the much anticipated launch of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival 2015. This year's festival provides access to the Fort, the National Consultative Council, and to select areas of the Cultural Foundation building.
In the past year, efforts have concentrated on gathering in-depth historical research and undertaking physical monitoring of the buildings' fabric, aspects which will lead the conserved structures becoming building-blocks in the establishment of a cultural hub for the capital.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that we conserve historic and modern elements of the Qasr Al Hosn Fort without causing any damage to its original fabric, thus addressing the need to sensitively conserve a structure of such high historic and cultural significance," said Arwa Al Nuaimi, Projects Manager at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
"To tackle these challenges, we are adopting a knowledge-based approach by relying on scientific research to fully inform our planning and strategy. We are also leveraging the expertise of well-renowned subject experts and adhering to best international practices in all our operations," she added.
A world-class team of experts has been assembled to support the conservation process of the delicate fabric of the original Fort structure, including the removal of some of the ‘non-original' elements that were added to the building in the 1980s when the Fort was repurposed to be the National Centre for Documentation and Research (NCDR) - now known as the National Archives. The team of experts is also using modern technology to secure any walls and structures that are lacking support.
Conservation work on Qasr Al Hosn Fort is taking place simultaneously with those on the Cultural Foundation building. With the conservation of one of Abu Dhabi's modern heritage iconic landmarks on-going, more areas have been opened for public viewing in this year's Qasr Al Hosn Festival.
Significant progress has been made on conserving the Cultural Foundation building, which is an important component of Abu Dhabi's collective memory and is the bridge between Qasr Al Hosn and Abu Dhabi's future aspirations for cultural growth. Conserving the Cultural Foundation building is a fundamental element in the overall conservation project for the entire block.
The Conservation Management Plan for the urban block of Qasr Al Hosn will examine the relationships between the Fort, the National Consultative Council, the Cultural Foundation building, and the interstitial spaces between these buildings, as well as the relationship between the Qasr Al Hosn Block and the rest of Abu Dhabi City.
Conserving modern heritage requires the same methodical approach as historic buildings. As part of the Conservation Management Plan, the Cultural Foundation building is being thoroughly documented, researched and studied to form a complete understanding of its significant values as an outstanding landmark of Abu Dhabi's modern heritage. This is supported by a sound assessment of the building's opportunities and constraints, and a methodical stakeholder and community consultation will inform the conservation policies that will determine how the building will be preserved, restored and rehabilitated.
"The vision behind the Master Plan is to re-establish Abu Dhabi's cultural heart by conserving the Fort, National Consultative Council and the Cultural Foundation building and address their surrounding urban context to create a leading cultural learning hub that combines preserving traditional heritage with state-of-the-art modern day technology," Al Nuaimi said, adding that efforts to realise this vision have already begun, and TCA Abu Dhabi, supported by the Urban Planning Council and the Abu Dhabi City Municipality, is in the process of receiving creative design proposals, judged against creativity in landscape design combined with cultural understanding.
Visitors to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which runs until February 21st, will be able to tour the Fort and Cultural Foundation building and question experts on the next stage of this important conservation project.