Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Architectural projection mapping of large-scale mosque.

  • Dates: December, 2011
  • Location: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Role: Developer
  • Collaborators:
    • Obscura Digital
    • Andrew Plourde – Technical Direction
    • Eugene Dowlen – Technical Direction
    • Simon Ransom – Technical Direction
    • Travis Threlkel Creative Direction
    • Marta Salas Porras Creative Direction
    • Nathaniel Ruhlman Media
    • Ron Robinson Media
    • Eric Knuble Media
    • Gaston Albanell – Production
    • Nick Lynch – Production
    • Diego Novoa – Production
    • Rainen Janes – Production
    • Joe Vigorito – Production
    • Nathan Houchin – Production
    • Mary Franck – Interative Developer
    • Grady Sain – Interative Developer
    • Imran Nabhan – Interative Developer
    • Josh Brott – Photos / Documentation
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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Illuminations created a flagship spectacle for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the United Arab Emirates, generating worldwide attention to the achievements of a people exemplified by the largest Mosque in the country. The experience used the latest developments in computer rendering and projection technologies — forty-four projectors emitting over 840,000 lumens created the largest contemporary architectural projection ever executed. The show was crafted to honor the unifying spirit of Sheikh Zayed, his passion for the environment, and his vision to invite artists of all cultures around the world to design for this singular showcase of architecture by undertaking a months long interdisciplinary architectural and cultural research project to understand the design elements of the Mosque and the cultural and spiritual traits they symbolized. The experience began with Islamic geometric patterns and elegant pentagonal forms that shifted in symmetry. It slowly transitioned to organic, environmental designs with details of date palm fronds, flowers of stone, and colorful organic vines scale the four minarets (170m/350ft high) in the corners of the courtyard, homage to the symbols of the UAE found throughout the Mosque. These organic forms shifted into scenes acknowledging the rich cultural heritage of the Emirates such as the Qibla Wall — mirrored after the central panel of the main prayer hall illuminating the 99 attributes of Allah in traditional Kufi calligraphy — and an interpretation of the Mosque’s Mihrab was depicted as rotating golden domes. The scenes progressed to entrance the viewers with optical illusions altering the architecture as glass, shadows, or mosaics shimmering under a blue sky. This theater of the senses built to a culmination with celestial moments featuring the cycles of the Moon on which the Islamic calendar is based. The Moon broke across the horizon over the Mosque, followed by the Earth, representing the vision Sheikh Zayed had for his people, their heritage, and all of humanity. In accordance with the commitment of Sheikh Zayed and the UAE to our environment, all carbon emissions from the event were offset with the planting of 30 trees. In all, the project represented the integration of interdisciplinary cultural research, technology innovation, and augmented architectural design which resonated with people from around the world and engaged them directly with this important moment celebrating and uplifting the UAE with is culture, faith, and people.