The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2008

Speirs + Major's lighting design for the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan mosque, the third-largest mosque in the world, highlights the firm's strong conceptual design approach and masterful technical skill. The sheer scale, scope, and duration of the project—48,000 square meters (517,000 square feet), interior and exterior, and 15 years, of which lighting was a six-year project—is a feat unto itself. Responding to the Islamic calendar's adherence to the lunar cycle, Speirs + Major employed hidden projectors to create the illusion that the mosque's exterior is bathed in full moonlight crossed by wisps of cloud. For the interiors, the designers integrated wall-washing luminaires into the building's coves, niches, and ledges, giving the impression that the architecture itself is naturally luminescent. The success of the project lies not only in the finished result, but in the very nature of the design process itself.