The Founder’s Memorial – Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Founder’s Memorial Opening Ceremony (Technical design, direction, and production management)

Wonder Works were delighted to be approached by Nick Levitt for leading producers Done+Dusted to offer technical design and production management for a stunning ceremony revealing an art installation and gardens commemorating the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed – the Founding President of the UAE.

Although Wonder Works have a long association with innovative Middle Eastern projects and have frequently worked in Abu Dhabi, it was clear this ceremony would require the highest visual aesthetic to reflect the high quality of the architecture and landscaping of this new public space overlooking the city skyline.

A critical design need was initially hiding the extraordinary, 30-metre-tall art-works’ true function until the show climax revealed it as The Constellation – 1,327 geometric ‘star like’ shapes outlining a silhouette of the face of Sheik Zayed.

The answer was to initially turn the memorial into a huge fabric projection screen on which a multimedia cinematic experience could be integrated with an inspirational live performance. At the crucial moment the screen could ‘disappear’ to reveal the art-work behind, much to the surprise and delight of the audience. However, this wasn’t the only challenge.

Jeremy Lloyd, Wonder Works director, commented “Working with engineers Atelier One, we designed a system of cantilever beams which provided rigging points for the kabuki system and lighting trusses. Everything had to be hidden to maintain the innate beauty of the art-work, so we used a fascia to cover the array of steel beams, lighting truss and vertical cables on which the fabric was attached. The show was initially postponed, and then during rehearsals we had to manage the arrival of a massive storm. Wonder Works on-site production manager Adrian Bourke led a team to cover and protect the sculpture, the seating grandstand, control, and technical towers. Luckily nothing was damaged.”

Despite the hiccups there was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the seamless opening ceremony.