The Constellation is a monumental public artwork that forms the centerpiece of The Founder’s Memorial Park in Abu Dhabi, a permanent national tribute to the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a transformative leader who championed peace, tolerance, women’s rights and the environment.
Including a likeness of the founder was neither required nor expected, but his charismatic visage proved irresistible. In a country where the leader’s traditional likeness is ubiquitous, the challenge was to create a new kind of portrait.
Inspired by Sheikh Zayed’s lifelong devotion to nature—and reflecting on his early life in Al Ain prior to a regional electrical grid—the design employs a kind of “active perception” akin to how we see astronomical constellations, where we as viewers help create the image.
Gazing at the night sky can have profound benefits. A sense of perspective is one of them.
The sculpture consists of 1,327 geometric shapes attached to 1,110 cables. These elements constitute varying sizes of the five convex polyhedrons known as Platonic solids, “sacred geometries” renowned for their mathematical beauty. Housed within a prismatic 100m-high Pavilion at the heart of the park, the suspended solids shine like stars in the night sky. This celestial display evokes the timelessness of Sheikh Zayed’s enduring vision, which continues to inspire the people of the UAE and beyond.
To accommodate evening viewers 753 downlights and 1,203 uplights were custom made to illuminate the sculpture from above and below.
The Constellation was fabricated by Stage One, Tockwith, York, UK
Architect: Meticulous Architecture + Design, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Landscape architect: Waho Design, Dubai, UAE
Engineering: Meinhardt Group, London, UK
Lighting design: dpa lighting consultants, Dubai, UAE
Client and owner: The Founder’s Memorial and the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Abu Dhabi, UAE