World first: Mosque’s light transmitting concrete

Al Aziz Mosque on Abu Dhabi’s Al Reem Island makes use of stunning light transmitting concrete technology to create a fascinating light show at night with projected calligraphy. Every facade panel is unique, a first for a project of this type.

The illuminated calligraphy is the centrepiece of the mosque’s architecture, where designer APG Architecture and Planning Group has introduced many innovative ideas and concepts. The facade elements were designed, produced and installed by Germany’s Lucem Lichtbeton.

The whole facade comprises the 99 different names of God distributed on different elevations of the mosque in accordance with strict instruction of the holy Quran. Calligraphy on each individual panel protrudes 30 mm out of the light transmitting concrete. By day, the shadow effect created by the sunlight creates stunning visuals on the natural stone façade but at night, when the walls become backlit, the show really starts.

At dusk, LED lights installed behind the facade panels are activated. The light is transmitted via fibre optics to the external surface of the protruding letters. Each facade element is a massive concrete panel that is totally weatherproof and can withstand the extreme temperatures usually found in the summer months of the United Arab Emirates. The surface of the facade elements has been treated to ensure resistance of the erosion caused by sandstorms.

“A mosque is a message in itself that should take you away from the materialistic everyday world and bring you closer to the metaphysical aspect of life and to God,” said Yasser Fouad, designer of the mosque and architect with APG. “The wall is alive and part of the message. It feels like it’s reciting the names of God along with the visitor himself, a living breathing part of the whole experience of worshipping God in prayer.”

A specialist Islamic arts calligrapher was employed to prepare the hand drawings for the 99 different names of Allah. These were then digitised and transformed by the project’s architects to AutoCAD format that were then used by Lucem for the preparation of the individual moulds, arranging the fibre optics required and casting of the panels with a high strength concrete. The panels have an average dimension of 1800 x 1400 mm, weighing in at 300 kg. One panel had to be produced twice that size, weighing 600 kg. The result is a 515 sq metre external facade consisting of 207 elements.

 

Project profile

Al Aziz Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Client: HAMG, Hasan Abdullah Mohammed Group

Architect: APG Architecture and Planning Group

Illuminated calligraphy: APG, ALD, Lucem

General contractor: Arabtec

Installation: Salam Enterprises, Lucem