The WhaleShark Icon is a show machine that changed the identity of a city.
An elegant 20-ton steel artwork hanging 130 feet above the ground between the Lusail Towers in Doha; simple, yet complex at the same time.
In the summer of 2022, Balich Wonder Studio was commissioned by the Qatari Emir to create an iconic legacy to the city for the FIFA World Cup, to be delivered by the beginning of the championship.
By day, the Icon is a shining landmark that flies about the central boulevard. By night, the shark alights multiple times per night in a 10-minute light and sound show, taking a nightly audience of thousands on an emotional and climactic journey. Through the duration of the World Cup over 100,000 visitors saw the show, with new activations under development for future spectacles.
The WhaleShark is a creative and technical triumph achieved in just sixteen weeks. Using unconventional solutions and an infectious spirit we convinced architects, engineers and caretakers of Lusail to work together to make it possible, and make a colossal masterpiece fly.
When BWS started building a huge Whale Shark – a gentle, and powerful animal representing the biodiversity of Qatar – citizens and institutions, wholeheartedly embraced the cause, fostering a collective spirit of participation.
From the beginning, this project made people feel like they were witnessing something spectacular and important that would have had an impact on their city.
That’s the beauty of icons: they portray straightforward symbols, that even a child could recognize, and have the power to amaze people.
We made a beautiful design from off-the-shelf materials, assembled with mixed-reality technology. We designed a suspension solution from four existing towers, and we convinced a city wildly preparing for their first global event to offer the space and support to make it possible.
But most importantly, this extraordinary project demanded a trust between the team members, fostering a profound sense of unity and belief that resonated through a whole city.
After less than a year the WhaleShark has become a staple within the Doha landscape and identity, and we continue to receive inspiring messages and pictures from the Qatari people, showing their pride in its gentle power.