The Constellation at The Founder’s Memorial

An engineered tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

The project involved the construction of an unconventional public artwork in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the life, legacy and values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Founder’s Memorial was unveiled on his 100th birthday, and creates a space where future generations can gain a deeper understanding of his legacy. Zutari was appointed to help bring the memorial and its monumental centrepiece – The Constellation – to life.

The Constellation is a 3D portrait of Sheikh Zayed, framed within a 30 m tall prism-like pavilion that is open on two sides, designed by American artist Ralph Helmick. The Sheikh’s well-known likeness was respectfully recreated with a pointillist array of 1327 floating geometric elements anchored to 1,110 strands of 30 m-long cables. These elements comprise varying sizes of the five complex polyhedrons known as Platonic solids. Our design goal was to design a buildable solution and engineer the structure, cables and materials to allow Helmick to articulate his masterpiece.

According to Steve Daniels, façades leader, the challenge was in creating an overall design solution that could continue in parallel with the artist’s sculpture work. The cables were designed in such a way as to minimise sound, vibration, corrosion, wire fatigue and stresses on the roof structure and foundations. Solutions were also found for the pre-tension required for the cables to counteract thermal changes.

The Constellation is a 3D portrait of Sheikh Zayed, framed within a 30 m tall prism-like pavilion that is open on two sides, designed by American artist Ralph Helmick.
An outstanding piece of art reflecting the people’s reverential feelings for Sheikh Zayed.

Our engineers also conducted numerous wind studies for the optimum cable material and diameter for design wind speeds up to 40 m/s (about 140 km/h) to ensure The Constellation would continue to maintain its appearance.

Despite the many challenges, the team enjoyed the research, model building and analysis to ensure the design would assimilate into Abu Dhabi’s hot, windy, and hazy environment – resulting in an outstanding piece of art reflecting the people’s reverential feelings for Sheikh Zayed.

*The Aurecon Africa business has been officially renamed Zutari as at 21 July 2020.
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