This year marks 100 years since the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, who passed away in 2004.
To commemorate this important milestone, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates declared 2018 as the Year of Zayed.
Probably the highlight of the many events and initiatives planned to mark the anniversary is the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi, a permanent monument and tribute to the life, legacy and values of Sheikh Zayed. The memorial was formally inaugurated on 26 February, 2018 and was fully opened to the public on 22 April.
Visitors to the Founder’s Memorial in the UAE capital can learn more about the late UAE leader through a range of interactive activities. But without doubt the centrepiece of the project is a monumental public artwork named The Constellation, a dynamic three-dimensional portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed.
Designed by American sculptor and public artist, Ralph Helmick, The Constellation is comprised of 1,327 platonic solids - tetrahedrons, cubes, octahedrons, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons - suspended from more than 1,110 steel cables in a precise arrangement to create a three-dimensional portrait of Sheikh Zayed.
The artwork weighs 250 tonnes, while the steel structure of the roof supporting it weighs 190 tonnes. More than 5,745 counterweights hold the suspended shapes in place, which form a series of profiles of Sheikh Zayed when viewed from different perspectives both within the memorial's landscape and from outside along the Corniche. Illuminated by more than 2,000 lights, the suspended shapes of The Constellation shine like stars at night.
International construction and property consultancy Thomas & Adamson (T&A) was appointed as cost consultants on the Founder’s Memorial during the pre-construction phase in 2015 and was later engaged to provide project management services throughout the two year construction phase.
“This has been a challenging yet exciting project for Thomas & Adamson due to the bespoke nature of the artwork, it’s very scale and the level of precision required to ensure the accuracy of the installation,” says Zander Muego, partner at Thomas & Adamson.
“From the outset of the project on site, it was incumbent upon us as the project manager to lead by example and abide by the core project values of integrity, honesty, compassion, humanitarianism, wisdom, tolerance, co-existence and equality. Each stage of the process was approached with these values in mind and this ensured the project was delivered to a high standard.”
Thomas & Adamson was invited to participate in a competitive tendering process alongside five other international consultancies, and was awarded the project on the basis of a commercial and technical analysis following a multi-staged review process which included technical submittals, commercial submittals and interviews.
The firm deployed an experienced team of existing staff members to deliver the project. From a project management perspective, its responsibility was to oversee the entire development of the spectacular 3.3 hectare project comprising a visitor centre, a sensitively landscaped public plaza and the unique public artwork.
As a unique project, The Founder’s Memorial brought with it a number of challenges from a design, procurement and construction perspective. The 30 metre high three-dimensional structure was a first-of-its-kind piece of construction that comprised over 1,100 steel cables and over 1,327 stainless steel platonic solids, each of which had to be installed to exact X, Y and Z co-ordinates.
This created detailing, fabrication and installation challenges, explains Muego. It required a significant amount of co-ordination between team members located across the globe, including entities in Italy, UK, USA and Australia, in addition to enhanced and extremely detailed QA/QC processes at site level.
The project was both challenging and exciting for the consultancy due to the bespoke nature of the artwork, its very scale, which has never been accomplished before, and the level of precision required to ensure the accuracy of the installation.
“From the outset of the project on site, it was incumbent upon us as the project manager to lead by example and abide by the core project values of integrity, honesty, compassion, humanitarianism, wisdom, tolerance, co-existence and equality,” says Muego. “Each stage of the process was approached with these values in mind, ensuring the project was delivered to a high standard.”
A large component of the project is the memorial park. The soft landscaping element of the park comprises entirely local species of plants, a majority of which come from Al Ain, the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed. By utilising species of plants indigenous to the UAE, T&A has ensured water wastage through irrigation will be kept to a minimum.
Approach to cost consulting
T&A’s approach focussed on identifying and implementing value engineering opportunities throughout the project duration. This included reviewing and challenging the finishing details and material selection, with active engagement from the leadership, ensuring that all details of the project were in line with expectations.
The project team continuously explored new opportunities to re-engineer structural or utilities solutions throughout the procurement and construction stage, challenging both the design and construction methodology being proposed. This enabled cost reductions to be achieved which offset areas of cost increase and ultimately ensured an appropriate balance of project expenditure which represented a best value solution to the client.
“Every visit to The Founder’s Memorial is an immersive journey of discovery,” concludes Muego. “You will experience a series of uniquely personal encounters with Sheikh Zayed, the man and the leader, exploring his life and legacy, the principles and causes he championed, and the various facets of his visionary leadership.
“T&A is thrilled to have been involved in a project of this stature and national importance, and the team is proud to have contributed to such an iconic project as the Founder’s Memorial, playing a part in the 2018 Year of Zayed. We are proud to have supported the UAE leadership in realising their vision for the project.”
About Thomas & Adamson
Zander Muego, Partner, Thomas & Adamson
International construction and property consultancy Thomas & Adamson has seen steady growth since its inception in 1935, building a strong international presence throughout Europe, UAE, and US. T&A has been established in the Middle East for over five years and has positioned itself as a key industry player with experience across all real estate market sectors with a particular focus on hospitality, commercial, residential, retail, education and industrial projects. Some of the firm’s most notable projects in the UAE have included the cost and project management for developments such as Rixos Beach Club, Rotana Arjaan, the Yas Island Emirati Housing Project and Emaar South.