Sheikh (640px)

Above: The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan Mosque, commonly known as the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi - one of the international projects completed by Speirs + Major. Image copyright: Allan Toft.


Clad in marble and gold, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, is the third largest mosque in the world and one of the world’s religious landmarks, accommodating over 30,000 worshippers.

As part of its growing body of international work, the lighting design agency Speirs + Major was approached to produce concepts for the site, inside and out including all public and religious areas.

The overall concept was designed to ensure the building had a landmark impact in the region and provided breathtaking internal spaces. As the Islamic religious calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the moon became a source of inspiration and a unifying element of the design.

A poetic look was created for the mosque, based on the image of a full moon with wisps of cloud moving across its face. The building alters character as the lunar cycle progresses, bathed in cool white light at the full moon, but shifting colour every two evenings, and growing gradually bluer as the moon wanes. On the fourteenth evening the mosque is lit in deepest blue to signify darkness - yet the viewer is never able to perceive the building changing from one colour to the next.

The work is one of the many international projects completed by the practice that grew out of a close working relationship between Edinburgh-based Jonathan Speirs and London-based Mark Major.

They say: "Many of the clients and creative partners (architects, interior designers, landscape designers, artists, etc.) that we work with are based in London but we have maintained our presence in Scotland through our international work.

"In April 2007 we were nominated by FX Magazine as one of the top 10 lighting practices in the world.  We were the only British-based designers to be selected.  Today we hope we might be counted in the top 5.  In the last decade we have worked in 34 different countries. We believe Speirs + Major is a considerable net exporter and a positive ambassador for British design."

Awards won include:

2012: Nominated Lighting Design Practice of the Decade; Mark Major and Jonathan Speirs elected Royal Designers for Industry; Lighting Design Advisor, Olympic Park, London – International Dark Sky Association Award; St. Botolph Building, London – Award of Merit, IES Awards; Aeroblades – Exterior Luminaire of the Year Award, Lux Awards. 2013: University of the Arts – AL Light & Architecture Awards; Twin Sails Bridge, Poole – Award of Excellence, IES Awards, Gold, Illumni Infinity Awards; Burlington Arcade, London - Heritage Winner, Lighting Awards, Award of Merit, IALD Awards; In Lumine Tuo – Winner, Lighting Design, FX Awards, AL Light & Architecture Awards; Hedonism Wines – Gold, Illumni Infinity Awards.

They say: "We originated in the UK, having been educated and trained in that country.  We have remained solely UK based as it affords us everything we need to operate to the highest standards of professional practice; great resources, good people and an ideal creative cultural context."

 Mark Major

Above:  Mark Major and Keith Bradshaw, principals in Spiers + Major.  Image copyright: Speirs & Major.

They add: "We are currently working on 15 live projects overseas ranging from airports to mixed use commercial developments and heritage projects. We are currently working on projects in UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East, US, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, China and India."

In the December 2009 Metropolis Magazine, Jonathan Glancey described the firm as a "multidisciplinary lighting firm that in the past 16 years seems to have lit virtually every important new building and pretty much every building type: mosques, bridges, airports, stores, office buildings, even shopping malls.

"The secret of their all-embracing success is their [the firm’s] ability to craft powerful narratives, and the diverse talents of their 35-member in-house staff…Producers and directors as well as designers of architectural light shows, they’re adept at illuminating the profession’s glittering icons as well as transforming its plucked turkeys into graceful swans.

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