When visitors enter the domed courtyard of the new Louvre Abu Dhabi on 11 November, they will be struck by its geometric light effects and cool temperatures, despite the searing desert heat.
The dome crowns architect Jean Nouvel’s ‘museum city’ – a complex of 55 buildings, including 23 galleries, a children’s museum, an auditorium, a café and other facilities. It’s an engineering feat in itself, built from 85 super-sized elements each weighing up to 50 tonnes.
Star-shaped perforations filter the sun’s rays through the eight stainless steel and aluminium layers. They create ‘a rain of light’, says Nouvel, who took design cues from Arab architecture.
Passive design strategies like shade and natural ventilation control the temperature inside the 180m-wide dome, combating the harsh desert climate. ‘The dome creates a micro-climate,’ Nouvel explains. At night some 4,500 lights bring the structure to life.
Light and water were key inspirations for the architect when designing the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which appears to float above the sea. It can be reached by land or boat and the underside of the museum’s basement structure extends 15 meters below the water level.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of an £18bn plan to create a cultural district on Saadiyat Island. Also in the masterplan is a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gehry, and other cultural institutions designed by Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando.
Abu Dhabi’s government paid the Louvre €1bn for the loan of the Louvre’s name for 30 years, and services such as developing the museum’s exhibition programme and collections.
‘Abu Dhabi is a globally-connected city. The Louvre Abu Dhabi and its collections will reflect this,’ says the museum’s deputy director Hissa Al Dhaheri.
The display will include over 600 ancient to modern artworks from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s own collection and pieces on loan from French museums. Among these, are a Central Asian Bactrian Princess from the end of the 3rd millenium BCE, and a monumental work by Ai Weiwei (1957).
Louvre Abu Dhabi opens to the public on 11 November and the inaugural temporary exhibition, From One Louvre to Another, begins on 21 December.