What happens when artists and architects unite? 18 August 2017

Wahat Al Karama Memorial is not just a monument and pavilion of honour in Abu Dhabi, it’s a testament to the creative collaboration between artists and architects.


As a practice, we have a long history of working with artists to elevate civic spaces through meaningful urban infrastructure projects. This type of partnership gives us – as architects – the opportunity to step outside the confines of standard processes, be much more gestural and explore new forms of expression.


The expressive union shared by us and art and design consultancy Urban Art Projects, has culminated in the shared Wahat Al Karama Memorial project being shortlisted at this year’s World Architecture Festival in the ‘Civic and Community – Completed Building’ category.


To bring the Wahat Al Karama Memorial into existence, we teamed-up with British artist Idris Khan. Idris Khan is one of Britain’s most important interdisciplinary artists. It was extraordinary to be able to work alongside him on a project of such magnitude.


The conceptual direction of the project was conceived by Idris to create a park for reflection on loss and remembrance; a spiritual place that conveyed unity and support. This would be embodied in the monument, however as our relationship with the project deepened, the idea of the pavilion emerged.


The monument comprises 31 aluminum-clad leaning tablets, the largest soaring 23 metres in height. The tablets appear to gently rest on each other symbolising the united strength of the seven nations of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Each features a series of Arabic poems and quotes, enticing the viewer to read, reflect and touch the artwork, creating a personal relationship with the Memorial.


The Pavilion of Honour is a semi-buried circular structure, at its centre is seven standing glass panels by the artist, and 2,800 aluminium plates inscribed with the names of the UAE’s heroes. The two parts are connected via a water feature. Each space provides a unique environment for citizens to pay respect to those who have served their country.


Commissioned by the Crowne Prince Court Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the memorial is located on a 46,000-square-metre area between the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Armed Forces General Headquarters.

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