The Founder’s Memorial, a new cultural attraction commemorating the UAE’s founding President, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, has opened in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
Through an artistic exploration of the life, legacy and values of Sheikh Zayed, the memorial offers a unique opportunity to become immersed in the history and culture of the UAE, through experiences designed to reveal aspects of the country’s broader social, cultural and environmental heritage, including art, stories, and exhibitions.
A global leader and change-maker, Sheikh Zayed was a world-renowned humanitarian and conservationist who advocated respect, sustainability, education and women empowerment. Among his many national and international achievements, he pioneered the unification of the seven independent emirates to found the United Arab Emirates in 1971, was awarded the 1997 Golden Panda Award from the World Wildlife Fund.
The centrepiece of the space is The Constellation, a monumental artwork designed by public artist Ralph Helmick. Featuring 1,327 geometric shapes suspended on more than 1,000 cables, the installation is a dynamic three-dimensional portrait of Sheikh Zayed that can be experienced differently from multiple vantage points. At night, the shapes shine like stars, evoking the timelessness of Sheikh Zayed’s vision as a guiding light. Housed in a 30-metre-high Pavilion, The Constellation is one of the largest art installations of its kind, and unique in its use of abstract portraiture on this scale.
The Founder’s Memorial encompasses 3.3 hectares of beautifully landscaped public space with plants indigenous to the UAE and Arabian Peninsula. The memorial features a Sanctuary Garden including seating areas and a traditional ‘falaj’ water channel, a Heritage Garden where visitors learn about medicinal desert plants, and an elevated walkway offering captivating views of The Constellation, the Arabian Gulf and the city’s skyline.
The Welcome Centre’s insightful multimedia experience enables visitors to explore Emirati heritage by engaging with Sheikh Zayed’s legacy through rare footage, personal stories from people that knew him, and the voice of the late leader himself.
Emirati Cultural Tour Guides conduct complimentary tours guiding visitors through the landscape.
H.E. Yousef Al Obaidli, General Manager of The Founder’s Memorial, said, “Through the opening of The Founder’s Memorial, tourists have a wonderful opportunity to learn about the UAE in the context of the visionary leader who founded the nation. Here, people can explore Sheikh Zayed’s universal values and tremendous contribution to the world as a champion of human development, the environment, and people’s wellbeing.”
Ralph Helmick said, “Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is a unique global figure whose spirit is palpable throughout the UAE and beyond. Hence, it was vital that his legacy inspire the design of The Constellation. Even while overseeing unprecedented modernisation, Sheikh Zayed remained grounded in the physical world. The Constellation, therefore, is not a traditional figurative representation; it embodies an active re-creation of his likeness, exploring the boundaries of perception through oscillating moments of abstraction and representation. Put simply, the artwork seeks to fuse the terrestrial with the celestial.”
The Founder’s Memorial is free and open to the public daily.