The Constellation, The Founder’s Memorial, Abu Dhabi

Art & Exhibitions / Featured Project / Museums & Galleries / Public Buildings / The External Environment

dpa were privileged to be invited to illuminate The Constellation, a monumental public artwork that forms the centrepiece of The Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi, a permanent national tribute to the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The artwork was conceptualised and designed by artist Ralph Helmick, whose practice explores human perception through large-scale public sculptures and installations that invite optical discovery.

dpa collaborated closely with the artist at both his studio in Boston and during the extensive lighting trials that were conducted in Abu Dhabi to achieve the optical visual performance of the lighting scheme that enhances this world class artwork. Particularly challenging was the task of conceptualising and developing a lighting scheme that would highlight the unique artwork from multiple viewing angles, whilst retaining the subtle complexity and depth of the sculpture.

The Constellation  consists of over one thousand three hundred geometric shapes suspended from more than one thousand tensioned cables. These elements constitute varying sizes of the five different types of regular, convex polyhedrons known as ‘platonic solids’, which are renowned for their mathematical beauty and symmetry. In order to achieve three dimensional rendition of the sculpture at night, seven hundred and fifty three downlights and twelve hundred and three uplights were custom made to illuminate the sculpture from above and below.  Each fixture is fitted with a 3.5w warm white LED and integral DMX control, which enables the exact tailoring of the lighting scheme to respond to the differing textures and forms of the individual and collective solids that make up the artwork.

The Constellation is situated within the landscape of The Founder’s Memorial, which features plants indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula, an elevated walkway offering breathtaking views of the city, and a Welcome Centre with a state-of-the-art multimedia experience. Housed within a pristine, prismatic Pavilion at the heart of the space, the suspended solids of The Constellation shine like stars within the night sky. This celestial display evokes the timelessness of Sheikh Zayed’s vision, which continues to offer the UAE people guidance along a path of progress and prosperity.

Project Credits:

Project Owners: Ministry of Presidential Affairs
Artist: Ralph Helmick
Photography: Alex Jeffries Photography Group
dpa Project Team: Barry Hannaford – Director,David McNeil – Director, Lee Sweetman – Director