Qasr Al Hosn

Qasr Al Hosn

  • Department of Culture & Tourism Abu Dhabi
  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • 2008 - 2018

Qasr Al Hosn is the ancestral home of the Al Nahyan and the oldest building on Abu Dhabi Island. A seat of rule and a fortified stronghold, a family home and a centre for the community, an emblem of the emirate of Abu Dhabi: Qasr Al Hosn is among the UAE’s most significant and iconic heritage sites.

Over the past decade, Barker Langham have worked on the business and cultural planning of both the permanent site and the annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival.

The ultimate aim of this integrated project was to conserve and share the fort’s rich heritage, transforming the site into a prime tourism and cultural destination, and reinstating it as the symbolic heart of the capital.

Our scope on Qasr Al Hosn included everything from business and operational planning, research and interpretation, curation and scriptwriting – right through to installation and curatorial training.

We developed the Business Plan for the redeveloped site, the Cultural Foundation and its historic buildings, ensuring that the fort and the wider landscape is at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s economic development. This included the full organisational and commercial planning, as well as facilities management planning.

The plan also developed a number of wider macro-economic measures to capture value created by major investments in culture in the city, ensuring sustainability and longevity.

Barker Langham has developed exhibitions and interpretation for a number of Qasr Al Hosn Festivals. In 2016 we curated the festival in just 10 weeks – collaborating with creative teams including the digital studio Obscura, the experience agency People Creative, and exhibition designers Kossmann DeJong. The 2016 festival achieved record-breaking attendance with 140,000 visitors enjoying the festival over two weeks. Further to this success, the festival’s flagship temporary exhibition, “The Story of Abu Dhabi”, remained open to the public and, in 2017, we collaborated again with Kossmann DeJong to refresh it with a gallery that revealed the new masterplan for the site.

Since 2017, working alongside DCT and the National Archives, we worked on the curation, research and interpretation of the permanent visitor experience at Qasr Al Hosn. Having established a Curatorial Narrative for the fort, in order to bring together the many and varied stories of the site we conceptualised a layered narrative framework around which the interpretive plan was developed. Weaving together the site’s historical narrative, the evidential significance of its architecture and archaeology and the memories and stories of the people who lived there over the years, we created a cohesive and compelling visitor experience. This was brought to life through artefact display, immersive environments, soundscapes, oral histories, archival installations and and interactive models and games.