Award-winning lighting at Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque (known colloquially as The Grand Mosque) in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s newest, most striking national and religious landmarks. Accommodating more than 40,000 worshippers, this is the largest mosque in United Arab Emirates and one of the largest anywhere, covering more than 236,000 square feet (22,000 square meters). The lighting design had to equal the grandeur of this civic icon, both externally and internally, emphasizing the building as the gateway to the city. That award-winning design was conceptualized by Speirs and Major Associates (SaMA), who specified over 19,000 fixtures -- including several hundred ETC Source Four® units. All the luminaires are controlled by 21 ETC Congo® Light Servers and 15 ETC Unison® processors, which were supplied by Oasis Enterprises. Seventeen custom-built equipment racks and 52 customized dimming racks contain almost 2,300 circuits -- relays, SCR- and ETC Matrix® Mk II SineWave dimming -- that are controlled via sophisticated networking: 276 ETCNet3™ DMX/RDM Gateways.

Keith Bradshaw, director at Speirs and Major said: “Given the scale and the sophistication of the system we required, we knew there were very few people who could manage it properly. It needed to be a company able to think laterally when faced with complex and unique problems, and we knew ETC had the flexibility and brainpower to deal with it. ETC’s product reliability is self-evident, but there is just something about the mentality of its people and their background -- we knew they could handle something of this scale.”

The breathtaking exterior lighting for the Grand Mosque was designed to mimic the phases of the moon. At a full moon the building is white. For the new moon it is blue. The look changes daily. In addition to the color-change sequence, ‘clouds’ glide across the facade as though moving from west to east, clearing from Mecca. This was achieved with a series of building-mounted and totem-mounted rigs 65 feet off the face of the building, from which numerous light fixtures project imagery.

Internally, the lighting highlights the Mosque’s architectural detail and interior design, which incorporates Italian white marble, inlaid floral patterns, gold mosaics and, in the main prayer hall, the world’s largest hand-woven Persian carpet. Of equal importance, the lighting system provides flexible functionality for reading and prayer, as well for TV broadcasting.

Speirs and Major Associates garnered international accolades for their work, including the IALD Award of Merit and two MELDA (Middle East Lighting Design) awards -- Project of the Year and Best Public Building Lighting Project. The ESTA Association named ETC and Martin Professional winners of the prestigious “Rock Our World Award,” for outstanding, innovative achievements in new products, product applications and projects. The Europe-based Professional Lighting Designers’ Convention presented the Grand Mosque with a Recognition Award for Best New Project, stating that the design “incorporates supreme lighting insight and skills. While it respects the building's inherent cultural and religious aspects, it can be celebrated as the best of its kind in aesthetic, meaningful and spiritually overwhelming architectural lighting.”

ETC Controls Product Manager Sarah Clausen, lead programmer of the Congo systems on site, emphasized the magnitude of the global project cooperation: “The Grand Mosque installation spanned seven years of work across international departments and offices within ETC and externally with Martin Professional to achieve and implement Speirs and Major Associates’ brilliant design ideals.”

Updated version of November 9, 2010


Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Product List


"ETC’s product reliability is self-evident, but there is just something about the mentality of its people and their background – we knew they could handle something of this scale.” - Keith Bradshaw, associate director at Speirs and Major

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