Abu Dhabi, Architecture, Design, Idris Khan, Martyrs, Memorial, Memorial Park, Memorial pavilion, Sculpture, UAE, UAP

UAE’s first Memorial Park features Idris Khan-designed aliminium memorial sculpture

The UAE’s first Memorial Park celebrating martyred soldiers has been unveiled in Abu Dhabi, with the overall design created by engineering firm AECOM.

The Memorial Park is symbolically located between Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the General Headquarters of the UAE Armed Forces.

The park is called Wahat Al Karama, which means ‘oasis of dignity’, and covers an area of 46,000 square metres. At the heart of the park is a an impressive sculpture by British artist Idris Khan which makes up the main Memorial.

The park also features a glass pavilion also designed by Khan in collaboration with Brisbane-based architects bureau proberts and engineering consultancy Robert Bird Group.

International art and design studio UAP was appointed to collaborate and commission the memorial. The studio is behind public realm projects such as the centrepiece at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Breakwater Beacon in Saudi Arabia.

The Memorial itself comprises 31 aluminium standing tablets, each 23 metres in height. The tablets lean on each other to represent unified strength, power and pride among soldiers, loved ones and the country. Its two front tablets stand vertically and are intended to evoke a sense of humility when approached.

““The idea was to create a park for reflection on both loss and remembrance, a spiritual place that conveyed unity and support. I wanted this monument to have positive and hopeful resonance while inspiring curiosity in sculpture and how contemporary art can influence emotions,” said Khan.

“It is a place for serenity within a city busy with construction and growth, a major part of a country’s history and landscape that will be absorbed by the cultural awareness of future generations.”

The tablets feature a series of Arabic poems and quotes from the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikha Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. People are encouraged to touch the engravings as they walk through the artwork.

Each tablet was handcrafted by UAP’s design and fabrication team, using a hand painting technique to achieve a delicate colour gradient on the surface that captures the light rather than reflecting it.

“An integral part of Idris Khan’s practice is a repetitive action of mark-making and erasure. The result is a subtle, intense texture which forms an infinite pool of marks, seeming to appear and disappear. UAP’s team successfully translated the artist’s beautiful and timeless mark-making into 3,000 square metres of cast metal,” said Daniel Tobin, founder and creative director of UAP.

“Working closely with Khan as the design developed, and throughout the fabrication process, the team’s creative problem-solving abilities enabled the translation of the monumental vision into a tangible object.”

UAP also oversaw the design and delivery of The Pavilion of Honor, which is a circular structure located at the end of the visitor’s journey. In its centre are seven standing glass panels surrounded by a water feature, representing the seven emirate’s of the UAE.

The circular internal wall is cladded with 2,800 aliminium plates made from reclaimed metal from armoured vehicles used in service.

The Park also incudes a visitor’s centre at the entrance, which can also serve as an amphitheatre for events.