UAE National Day Grand Mosque Architectural Projection Mapping

Yesterday saw the premiere architectural illumination of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in conjunction with the UAE National Day Celebration this December 2nd. I worked on this project on the interactive software development team at Obscura Digital, and its our largest and most complex mapping project to date. The outcome has been spectacular.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Illuminations highlight many of the unique details inside the largest mosque in the country. The projections highlight the geometry throughout the mosque with patterns that shift with symmetry and elegant spare pentagonal forms. A series of frames highlight the detail of the date palm fronds, homage to one of the symbols of the UAE found throughout the mosque. The show includes the unifying spirit of Sheikh Zayed, his passion for the environment through the many beautiful botanical flowers found throughout the mosque, all a part of the vision of the founding father to invite artists of all cultures around the world to design for this spectacular showcase of architecture. Flowers of stone, architectural detailing and lighting spectacles along with colorful organic vines scale the 4 minarets (170m/350ft high) on the four corners of the courtyard.  Projections include, the Qibla Wall mirrored after the central panel of the main prayer hall illuminating the 99 attributes of Allah in traditional kufi calligraphy. In addition, an interpretation of the Mirab next to the wall, depicted by rotating golden domes. There are optical illusions, which alter the architecture of the mosque as glass, highlighting geometry, shadows or glass mosaics shimmering under a blue sky. To end the show, a series of celestial moments with the cycles of the moon, which the Islamic calendar is based on as well as the stars twinkling in the night. The moon rises over the mosque as the illuminations come to an end. The earth begins rotating over the entrance to the Grand Mosque, representing the vision Sheikh Zayed had for his people, their heritage and all of humanity.

The entire front facade of the building, the four 170 meter high minarets and the three main domes of the interior structure. There were a total of 49 projectors used, making the logistical setup alone daunting.

This building was a joy to augment on both a technical level and artistically. The mosque is made of extremely rare natural materials; marble, crystal, semi-precious gem stones and gold. It contains the largest carpet in the world, and one of the largest chandeliers in the world made of millions of crystals. The design of all of the building is inspired by nature and was completed by artists from around the world, reflecting the multinational nature of Islam.

Clearly, when attempting to augment such and impressive and holy piece of architecture with video great consideration is required. Our media was similarly inspired by the architectural details already present, using floral patterns, lunar motifs, and subtle lighting effects to accentuate the preexisting patterns. The results have been stunning, and tastefully honor the spirit of Sheik Zayed, the UAE, and the mosque.

As with many of our projects, Derivative’s Touch Designer software was used for all of the show control, video playback, geometry correction and calibration on this job. We’ve been avid Touch users for quite some time at Obscura, and with the recent gold release of the software package, it is a perfect time for anyone interested in 3d video manipulation to get their feet wet with this impressive tool.


Technical Direction
Andrew Plourde
Eugene Dowlen
Simon Ransom

Creative Direction / Media
Travis Threlkel
Marta Salas Porras
Nathaniel Ruhlman
Ron Robinson

Gaston Albanell
Nick Lynch
Diego Novoa
Rainen Janes
Joe Vigorito
Nathan Houchin
Eric Knuble

Interactive Development
Mary Franck
Grady Sain
Imran Nabhan

Photos / Documentation
Josh Brott