Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Rasem Badran, UAE architecture

The Louvre Abu Dhabi does not reflect a traditional Arab city, writes Palestinian architect Rasem Badran

Following a recent trip to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, renowned Palestinian-Jordanian architect Rasem Badran wrote in a Facebook post that the museum’s architecture does not reflect the “traditional architectural texture of Arab cities.”

“[It is] an attractive outside space in midday [with the] projection of sun rays, while the interior is a boring failure and does not reflect Arabic streets,” Badran wrote of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“It is a typical misreading [by] the west [of] oriental civilisation. Even the exterior space does not reflect the dynamism of the open spaces in the traditional architectural texture of Arab cities. [It is] a contemporary space that has lost its soul.”

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 is meant to be a mini-city, or medina, surrounded by water and is entirely covered by a geometric dome that spans 180 metres.

During a tour of the ‘museum city’ with architect Jean Nouvel, the architect explained to designMENA 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 white blocks house the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, while the shaded, semi-outdoor areas of the ‘museum city’ display specially commissioned installations.

Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi. Photo by Grace Guino / ITP Images


Badran has long been considered a pioneer of modern Islamic architecture. The recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 for the Great Mosque of Riyadh, Badran has spent a large part of his career designing urban-scale developments and private residences across Saudi Arabia, as well as private projects for government authorities in other parts of the GCC.

His office, Dar Al Omran, has three branches spanning the Middle East, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to the UAE.

designMENA has reached out to Badran for comment.