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New images and further design details revealed for Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi
During a press conference held at the Manarat Saadiyat this morning (6 September), 11 November was announced as the opening date of the long-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.
The museum’s collection of artworks, artefacts and loans from France’s top museums were also revealed during the press conference. These span from prehistorical objects to commissioned contemporary artworks, highlighting universal themes and ideas and marking a departure from traditional museography that often separates according to origin.
In addition to the galleries, the museum will include exhibitions, a Children’s Museum, a restaurant, a boutique and a café.
“Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies our belief that nations thrive on diversity and acceptance, with a curatorial narrative that emphasises how interconnected the world has always been.
“The museum represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural preservation nurtured by the founding leaders of the UAE,” His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), said.
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel was also in attendance, offering further insight into the design of the museum complex.
“Louvre Abu Dhabi will open in two months. After several years of studies and construction, guests will be able to enter this place of light, this revelatory meeting place of a number of planetary cultures beyond the seas and centuries,” he said.
“It is an architecture that is protective of its treasures, it is a homage to the Arab city, to its poetry in geometry and light, and, under the large cupola, it is an evocation of the temporalities which inexorably punctuate the hours, days, and the passing of our lives.”
Nouvel designed Louvre Abu Dhabi as a ‘museum city’ in the sea, contrasting a series of white buildings that take inspiration from the medina and low-lying Arab settlements. In total, the complex features 55 individual buildings, including 23 galleries. The façades of the buildings are made up of 3,900 panels of ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC).
A vast dome, 180 metres in diameter, covers the majority of the museum city. The structure is visible from the sea, the surrounding areas and the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The dome consists of eight different layers: four outer layers clad in stainless steel and four inner layers clad in aluminium separated by a steel frame five metres high. The frame is made of 10,000 structural components pre-assembled into 85 super-sized elements, each weighing up to 50 tonnes.
“Louvre Abu Dhabi becomes the final destination of an urban promenade, a garden on the coast, a cool haven, a shelter of light during the day and evening, its aesthetic consistent with its role as a sanctuary for the most precious works of art,” Nouvel said.
He added: “A double dome 180 metres in diameter, offering horizontal, perfectly radiating geometry, a randomly perforated woven material, providing shade punctuated by bursts of sun. The dome gleams in the Abu Dhabi sunshine. At night, this protected landscape is an oasis of light under a starry dome.”
Featuring a complex geometric design, the pattern is repeated at various sizes and angles in the eight superimposed layers. Each ray of light must penetrate the eight layers before appearing then disappearing. The result is a cinematic effect as the sun’s path progresses throughout the day. At night, it forms 7,850 stars visible from both inside and out, called the ‘rain of light’.
The dome is supported by only four permanent piers, each 110 metres apart. These are hidden within the museum buildings to give the impression that the dome is floating. The interior dome elevation is 29 metres from the ground floor to the underside of the cladding. The highest point of the dome is 40 metres above sea level and 36 metres above ground floor level.
The interior exhibition spaces, comprising museum galleries, temporary exhibition spaces and Children’s Museum, make up 8,600 square metres.
Specially designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the floors, walls and ceiling surfaces of the museum galleries re-enforce the palatial dimensions of Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The floor paving is made of stone modules framed in bronze. Throughout the galleries, the choice of stone responds to the period of the artworks on show. The walls provide hanging flexibility: all subsidiary equipment may be concealed within special wall slots.
Filtered natural light can be present in all the galleries, either from lateral windows with views onto the surrounding environment or through zenithal lighting. This involves the use of glass mirrors to capture sunlight and direct it into the gallery spaces while also scattering rays to avoid glare.
There are 17 glass ceilings within the museum galleries. Each is made up of 18 different types of glass panels. In total, there are over 25,000 individual pieces of glass. These glass ceilings incorporate both natural and artificial lighting to provide an optimal lighting system for the artworks on display.
The display cases were also specifically designed by Meyvaert in Ghent Belgium for Louvre Abu Dhabi. They incorporate state-of-the art materials and have been designed to adapt flexibly to the rotation artworks on display.
To meet stringent environmental control requirements within the museum galleries, the design team developed a system which cannot deviate by more than one degree from 24 degrees centigrade or 5% humidity range. This guarantees exceptionally stable environmental conditions for artworks and visitors.
Also designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the restaurant at Louvre Abu Dhabi is made up of modular compartments. The intricate interior design takes inspiration from Arabic patterns, which have been engraved into Corian panels. The furniture, also designed by Nouvel, complements the light-filled interiors and panoramic views of the sea. Seven bespoke chandeliers hang over the seven VIP tables.
Jean Nouvel’s design for the museum café is inspired by the Op Art (optical art) movement of the 1960s. From certain positions, the café seems entirely monochrome (white); from others, the café interiors are full of colour, like an abstracted reflection of the local maritime environment and port opposite the museum. The floors, walls, ceilings and furniture have been designed specifically for the site by Ateliers Jean Nouvel.
“It is rather unusual to find a built archipelago in the sea. It is even more uncommon to see that it is protected by a parasol creating a rain of light,” Nouvel said of the surrounding waterway.
“The possibility of accessing the museum by boat or finding a pontoon to reach it by foot from the shore is equally extraordinary, before being welcomed like a much-awaited visitor willing to see unique collections, linger in tempting bookstores, or taste local teas, coffees and delicacies.
“It is both a calm and complex place. A contrast amongst a series of museums that cultivate their differences and their authenticities,” he said.