The domed building – Louvre Abu Dhabi, is a museum located on the Saadiyat Island or Island of Happiness, an upcoming cultural district in Abu Dhabi. Planned to be the most iconic structure on the island, it certainly seems to be a wonderful start, to creating an identity for the area. As the architect – Jean Nouvel, himself mentioned that he wanted this building to truly belong to the culture of the city and thus that it be profoundly Arabic, it perfectly justifies the underlying goal, for which it was built.

One would also have numerous assumptions and would automatically presume that  ‘Louvre Abu Dhabi’, is an official Louvre franchise, thanks to the world’s most famous museum – ‘The Louvre Paris’, but that is not the case. In fact, the brand name has been formally sold to this museum for only a span of 30 years, the time that would allow it, to establish itself, as a world-class museum, with its own unique collections and spectacular experiences. Although, acquiring the brand name has brought along its own set of expectations, the museum has not only been thoughtfully curated to match up to them but has a magnificence and beauty of its own – and is a clear example of art, architecture and engineering beautifully merging together to create a sight to see.

The domed building – Louvre Abu Dhabi, as seen from outside (Source: Mohamed Somji/Louvre Abu Dhabi)

To describe the architecture of the building is a little complex, but the concepts underlying it are simplistic and easy to understand – and as would be the emotions of calmness and curiosity generated together, after a visit to this place. The vast dome (180 m in diameter) is the most important feature of the building, visually and literally both and it completely covers a cluster of white-walled, flat-roofed museum buildings – galleries, an auditorium, a café, reflecting a mix of modern as well as traditional styles. The dome, as suggested by the architect is inspired by the shade and open lattice of the ‘mashrabiya’, a screen that offers protection against the extreme sunlight in the Middle East, as well as privacy. It pierces light randomly like random stars in the sky and creates a ‘rain of light’, thus combining light and shadow – the focal elements. To put it technically, every ray of light enters eight times through right layers before it finally appears, and thus is a result of a complicated and splendid geometric design. Also the dome appears to be floating, as there are only four piers that support it and they have been carefully integrated with the buildings.

 

Site plan of the museum, depicting major components and the contextual setting (Source: jeannouvel.com)
Rain of light through the dome (Source: Arch Daily)

The building continuously offers sea vistas through the recurring waterfront galleries, and the main plaza channels fresh breeze from various sides, at once. The museum therefore, is a balanced amalgamation of the sun and sea with art and architecture.

The main plaza that offers breathtaking views from various sides (Source: Arch Daily)

The museum consists of 55 individual buildings out of which, 23 are galleries. The façades of these buildings are made up of 3,900 panels of ultra-high performance fiber concrete (UHPC). The display has been spread throughout all the galleries, but only a small part of the museum features pieces from contemporary and modern art. One of the most prized possessions (on loan) of the museum currently is the Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Belle Ferronnière” (1495-99), a kind of second-tier “Mona Lisa” sent by the Louvre in Paris. Majorly the museum follows a thematic display of items from different cultures and time, which is a wonderful way of establishing cross-cultural understanding. The museum has thus adopted an intercultural approach to display the objects, increasing the visitor engagement. This building is said to be have made for the people to get inspired and get outside themselves and if one visits it, they would absolutely leave feeling inspired, pleased, fascinated and believing, that the motive is well achieved – all at the same time.


Vidushi Agarwal, is an Architect and Urban Designer with a keen interest in urban regeneration and sustainable development. She believes research is as important as the design and is focused on being a part of major research projects in the future. She also loves to be curious about everything and exploring new places.

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