Beachside installation to honour charitable giving

It looks like urban Dubai will be getting a piece of monumental public art to honour the traditions of generosity in the Emirates, though it’s not immediately clear where or whe.

Designed by architects OMA (who were responsible for Concrete, the flexible multifunction exhibition space at the centre of Alserkal Avenue) with the specialist interior design firm Inside Outside, it’s a monument comprising 1,680 triangular shaped aluminium columns with the title ‘Ethar – Honouring Generosity’.

It’s described in the OMA press release as “a monumental landscape embodying generosity and knowledge”. The columns are engraved with aphorisms from Arabic scholars, scientists and thinkers, and the installation is arranged like a magnetic field centring on a rectangular plaza at its heart.

Inside Outside – which like OMA is based in the Netherlands – specialises in landscape design; the studio’s main interest lies in dynamic, site specific environments, and “to us inter-disciplinary collaboration and clear communication is key …”

“The installation celebrates the unique culture of charitable giving in the United Arab Emirates,” said OMA, apparently missing the point that charitable giving is one of the five pillars of Islam rather than a specific attribute of the UAE. Whatever the thinking, the results should be impressive: the visitor encounters a field of small pillars at the edge of the site, and moving towards the centre the columns grow taller. Dramatic perspectives should open up towards the central public square.

OMA says the density of columns should create a pleasant microclimate “further enhanced by shading devices through which the installation will become a playful social space”.

It should look particularly good at night: rows of stainless steel lightning fixtures will mark out the plaza, and the illumination of the column landscape involves lights gradually shifting from wide to sharp and cold to warm.

The intentional is to use recycled (and recyclable aluminium) for the columns.

As that remark implies, there seems to be very little certainty about when, where and if the project will go ahead. OMA told us that it would be sited on “Jumeirah Beach”, but couldn’t tell us exactly where and on which bit of Jumeirah Beach. Nor is there a start date for the installation, let alone a target completion schedule.

OMA’s client is the Ethar Foundation, a Dubai-based organisation that appears to have no public profile but which is associated with the YBK Group and particularly its founder and CEO, Yasser Bin Khediya. YBK is a substantial business based on property services facilities management, with marketing and consulting arms.

Ethar Foundation will run the project, but the proposed funding will apparently come from sponsorship of individual columns; we understand any surplus will be used to support education-oriented charities in the UAE.

There may not be any specifics about where and when, but it seems likely that the project will happen somewhere and sometime – the state news agency WAM has formally reported that HH Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, visited the Ethar Foundation and had a briefing on the project back in February.

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