Jean Nouvel discusses Louvre Abu Dhabi project

The first gallery of the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi is complete.

The emirate’s Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), project developer, said the structure was finished a year after work on the project began.

Situated on Saadiyat Island, between the sand and sea, two thirds of the museum is designed to be covered by a white dome 180m in diameter, evoking the mosque and the madrasa.

The dome’s seemingly random but carefully designed arrangement of geometric openings was inspired by the interlaced palm leaves traditionally used as roofing material. The apertures will make it possible to control the light and temperature inside.

Underneath the dome, the outer volumes of the museum, with their simple geometric forms haphazardly arranged, recall the Arab city and its medina. A promenade passes through clusters of low-rise buildings with diverse facades, creating a what the designers call “a shifting, varied, poetic experience”.

Pritzker Prize-winner Nouvel explained his vision: “I wanted this building to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography. A microclimate is created by drawing on sensations that have been explored countless times in great Arab architecture, which is based on the mastery of light and geometry – a structure made up of shadows, of movement and discovery. ”

Nouvel said he has put his philospohy of design at the heart of the project: “Architecture is about harnessing the will, desire and skills of a handful of people in order to modify a place at a given point in time. Architecture is never something you create alone. You always create it somewhere in particular, at the request of one person or several people, but always for everyone to enjoy.”

Work is also underway on the museum’s walls, along with the installation of mechanical equipment, water pipes, electrical cabling and security and lighting systems.

Also 20% of the dome’s structure has been put in place, with the completion of the full structural steel frame set for September 2014. The entire structure is slated for completion by Q4, 2015.

The dome, which has a 180m diameter and includes 10,800 square steel tubes, will feature 85 segments, which will be assembled on the museum’s construction site prior to being lifted into place on top of 120 temporary support towers.

The building will encompass 9,200m2 of art galleries. The Permanent Gallery will house the museum’s core collection while The Temporary Gallery will house international displays. Reports in the French press say a Leonardo da Vinci work could be loaned.

Ali Al Hammadi, deputy managing director at TDIC, said “We’re happy with where we are today. To date, more than 10 million man hours have been dedicated to Louvre Abu Dhabi reflecting the amount of foundation work that the museum requires. Despite the challenging and complicated design, construction on the ground has been progressing steadily and on schedule.”