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The striking and innovative Louvre Abu Dhabi building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel: ‘I wanted this building to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography.’ Combining modern architecture and inspiration drawn from the region’s traditions, the design reflects the desire to create a universal museum in which all cultures are brought together.Situated on the Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is poised between sand and sea. Providing a haven of coolness, the building forms a place of shade during the day and ‘an oasis of light under a spangled dome’ at night.
Two thirds of the museum is covered by a white dome 180 metres in diameter, which is an emblematic feature of Arabian architecture, evoking the mosque, the mausoleum 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. The interior will be illuminated by an enchanting, shifting ‘rain of light’, reminiscent of the mashrabiya and the beams of light that illuminate souks.
Extending out over the water, the dome’s reflection cast in turn a shimmering light on the underside of the building’s ‘skin’, recalling the importance of water in Islamic architecture. ‘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.’ – Jean Nouvel.
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 shifting, varied, poetic experience for visitors. In contrast, inside the buildings, the sequence of large galleries, with their strict geometry and high ceilings, offer exceptional spaces for the displays of works.
‘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.’ – Jean Nouvel