Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Martin Professional Exterior series luminaires used to mimic moonlight in spectacular dynamic illumination for iconic Middle East mosque. Lighting design by Speirs and Major Associates.

The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque (Grand Mosque) in Abu Dhabi is nothing short of extraordinary. A major national religious building, it was built for the people of Abu Dhabi as a monument to their beloved ruler and principal United Arab Emirates architect, Sheikh Zayed, who passed away before the building was completed. 

The Grand Mosque is exceptional and imposing in every respect. Clad in marble and gold mosaic with each of four minarets rising to a height of 107 meters, with an 80-meter tall main dome, the more than 22,000 m2 building is the third largest mosque in the world and already one of the world's landmark religious structures, accommodating over 30,000 worshippers. 

Illuminating the intricate architecture are Martin Professional Exterior series color changing luminaires. The installation comprises more than 400 Martin Exterior 1200 Image Projectors, nearly 500 Exterior 200 luminaires, 248 Inground 200 uplights, and 56 Exterior 600 luminaires. The IP65 and IP67 rated fixtures operate in an environment where summer temperatures routinely reach 50C. Supply of the Martin Exteriors was through Martin Professional's local representative, Martin Professional Middle East, who project managed the exterior lighting install in collaboration with Martin's Danish-based headquarters office.

Speirs and Major Associates, lighting design

Monumental in stature and awe-inspiring to behold, the client, Abu Dhabi's Department of Municipalities and Agriculture, understandably sought an equally inspiring yet culturally appropriate illumination scheme. Consequently, they approached award-winning architectural lighting firm Speirs and Major Associates (SaMA) to create lighting designs for the interior and exterior two related concepts. 

The building exhibits a high level of religious refinement yet is also of civic importance, says
SaMA Director Keith Bradshaw. It sits up on a plateau against the sky with nothing on the same scale around it which gives it something very extraordinary.

The building's evening presence was very important to the client and in keeping with the significance of the project more than a simple floodlighting solution was sought. T
he approach we took was to link the external lighting concept to the lunar cycle, the lunar cycle being what sets the Islamic calendar, Bradshaw explains. The building represents the cycle of the moon and mimics the appearance of the moon. 

It is an artistic idea rather than just an illumination, states SaMA Director Jonathan Speirs. We wanted to tell a story that spoke about dignity and respect and had a reference to the functionality of the building.