Louvre Abu Dhabi / Ateliers Jean Nouvel

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© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe
  • Artistic Commision: Jenny Holzer Giuseppe Penone
  • Project Leaders: Jean-François Bourdet, Anna Ugolini (rchitecture / Interior Design / Museography); Sabrina Letourneur, Frédéric Imbert (Design); Damien Faraut, Athina Faraut (Construction)
  • Senior Architects: Rolando Rodriguez-Leal, Mireia Sala Font, Anne Traband, Michal Treder, Natalia Wrzask
  • Architecture Team: Raphael Renard, Reda Slaoui, Youssef Tohme, Qiang Zou, Stefan Zopp, Kris Geldolf, Roula Akiki, Alessandro Balducci, Jessica Caldi, Camille Dauty, Mark Davis, Stacy Eisenberg, Marion Foucault, Steven Fuhrman, Virginie Heckle, Stéphanie Menem, Abel Patacho, Miguel Reyes, Kathryn Stutts, Jordi Vinyals, Sébastien Yeou, Mariam Abuebeid, Sara Al Sawi, Kelly Anastassiou, Donna Ashraf, Jessica Caldi, Daniella De Almeida, Fay El
    © Roland Halbe
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Roof Plan
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Ground Floor Plan
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Museum Program
    © Roland Halbe
    © Mohamed Somji
    © Roland Halbe
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Elevations
    © Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome
    © Roland Halbe
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Pattern
    Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. Photographed by Fatima Al Shamsi
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Layers
    © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element
    © Roland Halbe
    Maryam Hosny, Zaina Khayyat, Youmna Najjar

  • Interiors: Floriane Abello, Lucas Dumon, Isabella Garbagnat, Jaiyao Huang, Tanguy Nguyen, François Zab
  • Renders: Artefactory (Eric Anton), Jugulta Le Clerre, Clément Oudin, Raphael Renard
  • Graphic Design: Rafaelle Ishkinazi, Marie Maillard, Léo Grunstein, Clovis Vallois
  • Engineers: ARUP (Concept Design); BuroHappold, Transsolar (Schematic Design); Andrew Snalune (Façades); BuroHappold (Construction)
  • Museography: Renaud Pierard
  • Signange: Philippe Apeloig, Kristian Sarkis
  • Lighting Design: 8’18”
  • Scenography, Multimedia: dUCKS scéno
  • Landscape: Michel Desvigne, Jean-Claude Hardy
  • Interior Design: Eric Nespoulous / JND
  • Acoustics: Studio DAP
  • Cost Consultant: MDA Consulting
  • Seismic: Setec
  • Models: Jean-Louis Courtois
© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe
“All climates like exceptions. Warmer when it is cold. Cooler in the tropics. People do not resist thermal shock well. Nor do works of art. Such elementary observations have influenced Louvre Abu Dhabi. It wishes to create a welcoming world serenely combining light and shadow, reflection and calm. It wishes to belong to a country, to its history, to its geography without becoming a flat translation, the pleonasm that results in boredom and convention. It also aims at emphasising the fascination generated by rare encounters.

© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Roof Plan © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Roof Plan
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Ground Floor Plan © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Ground Floor Plan
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Museum Program © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Museum Program

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.

© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe

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.

© Mohamed Somji © Mohamed Somji

It is both a calm and complex place. A contrast amongst a series of museums that cultivate their differences and their authenticities. It is a project founded on a major symbol of Arab architecture: the dome. But here, with its evident shift from tradition, the dome is a modern proposal.

© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe

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. 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.” 

© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Elevations © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Elevations

DESIGN

Pritzker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvel sought inspiration for the concept of Louvre Abu Dhabi in traditional Arabic architectural culture. Taking a contextual approach to the site, Nouvel designed Louvre Abu Dhabi as a ‘museum city’ in the sea. Its contrasting series of white buildings take inspiration from the medina and low-lying Arab settlements. In total, 55 individual buildings, including 23 galleries, make up this museum city. The façades of the buildings are made up of 3,900 panels of ultra-high performance fibre concrete (UHPC). 

© Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority © Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority

A vast dome, 180 metres in diameter, covers the majority of the museum city and is visible from the sea, the surrounding areas and Abu Dhabi city. This dome was constructed by the Austrian company Waagner Biro who specialize in steel structures. 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. 

© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome

The dome’s complex pattern is the result of a highly studied geometric design. It involved close collaboration between the architectural design team at Ateliers Jean Nouvel and the structural engineers at BuroHappold Engineering. 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. Named the ‘rain of light’, this effect has been the subject of many models and mock-ups over the years and is one of the defining features of the concept. 

© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Pattern © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Pattern
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. Photographed by Fatima Al Shamsi Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. Photographed by Fatima Al Shamsi

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. 

© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Layers © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Layers
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Dome Structural Element

The museum design is a collaboration between traditional design and modern construction techniques. The tranquil environment encourages visitors to enjoy the ever-changing relationship between the sun and the dome and between sea, buildings and land. The complex engineering concept made Louvre Abu Dhabi one of the most innovative and challenging museum projects to be built in recent times.

© Roland Halbe © Roland Halbe

The Concept Design phase for the Louvre Abu Dhabi project took place between 2006 and 2007. The Design Development phases followed in 2007 to 2012 and the construction of the museum from 2013 to 2017.  Prior to the completion of the museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has already been the recipient of three international awards: winner of the ‘Project of the Future’ category of the Identity Design Award in 2015; the European Steel Design Award in 2017, received with Waagner Biro, the Louvre Abu Dhabi dome specialist, and winner of the ‘Most Prominent UAE Project’ category of the Identity Design Award in 2017.

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