designMENA visits Jean Nouvel’s newly completed Louvre Abu Dhabi
designMENA visited the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi ahead of its official opening on Saturday 11 November, which will see the museum open its doors to the public for the first time.
The museum complex, which is located in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island, is made up of 55 white volumes. These volumes are distributed amid what appears to be a mini-city (or medina), surrounded by water and entirely covered by a geometric dome that spans 180 metres and is made up of 8,000 overlapping metal stars.
During a tour of the ‘museum city’ with Nouvel, the architect explained that the force of the sun acts as a projector that travels around the dome, while the sun rays penetrate the gaps in the architecture like lace.
The filtered sunlight then creates one of the key design elements of the architecture: an illumination effect described as a “rain of light” which dots the white blocks of the galleries and various promenades, and sometimes also glimmers on the surface of the surrounding water.
The white blocks each house the museum’s permanent collection and temporary museums, while specially commissioned installations are displayed in the semi-outdoor areas of the ‘museum city’, shaded by the dome.
Nouvel explained that the white cubes are representative of a metaphor of a city rather than a direct rendition of one.
“Some people might think it is a way of copying what exists but it is not. It is using elements from a time. I am not here to reproduce a medina. You cannot reproduce what already exists,” he said.
The art museum comprises of 6,400 metres of gallery space, including 23 galleries that make up its permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibition space and the Children’s Museum. It also houses a 27-seat auditorium, restaurant, shop and cafe.
Created in partnership with Poltrona Frau, the furniture range consists of armchairs, stools and double-sided sofa benches, all made from curved forms that reference the rounded dome of the museum building.
During the press conference, Nouvel said: “Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies an exceptional programme 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.”
Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director of musée du Louvre and Chairman of the Scientific Board of Agence France-Muséums, explained how the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a museum like no other, and possibly the most ambitious cultural project of the early 21st century.
He said: “It [the Louvre Abu Dhabi] carries a message of openness, which is critical for our era. This incredible project was conceived in the Emirates and carried out as an inspiring partnership. Today, we are proud that expertise given by French museums, and the extraordinary artworks that have been gathered together, contribute to the achievement of this museum, which will amaze the world and make its mark in the history of museums.”
Look out for more coverage on the Louvre Abu Dhabi this week on designMENA.