After 10 years of birthing the idea of a Middle-Eastern branch of the Louvre, Louvre Abu Dhabi opens this week at last. Louvre Abu Dhabi is the result of collaboration between the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and France.
Designed by Jean Nouvel, the museum resides on Saadiyat Island in the Arabian Gulf. Louvre Abu Dhabi contains 23 permanent exhibition spaces and galleries, in addition to a research center, an auditorium, and a kids’ museum.
“It is rather unusual to find a built archipelago in the sea,” said Jean Nouvel. “It is even more uncommon to see that it is protected by a parasol creating a rain of light.”
The project was designed to be a “museum city (medina),” mixing the Arab culture, modernity, and top-notch design and engineering—all in one structure.
The museum’s distinctive double-dome has a diameter of 180 meters. Its flawless geometry and intricate perforations provide the museum with shade and sun at the same time. The dome architecture was described to have “horizontal, perfectly radiating geometry; a randomly perforated woven material, providing shade punctuated by bursts of sun.”
The number of star-shaped perforations in the dome is 7,850, carrying showers of sunrays to the interior of the museum. Jean Nouvel says that they are “reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the United Arab Emirate’s oases.”
Nouvel added: “Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies an exceptional program in the literal sense of the word. Its vocation is now to express what is universal throughout the ages. Its architecture makes it a place of convergence and correlation between the immense sky, the sea-horizon and the territory of the desert. Its dome and cupola imprint the space with the consciousness of time and of the moment through an evocative light of a spirituality that is its own.”
“All climates like exceptions. Warmer when it is cold. Cooler in the tropics. People do not resist thermal shock well. Nor do works of art. Such elementary observations have influenced Louvre Abu Dhabi. It wishes to create a welcoming world serenely combining light and shadow, reflection and calm. It wishes to belong to a country, to its history, to its geography without becoming a flat translation, the pleonasm that results in boredom and convention. It also aims at emphasizing the fascination generated by rare encounters.”
The museum is the first international museum to ever open in the Middle East. It will carry the name of the ‘Louvre Museum’ for only 30 years.