The most successful buildings are those in which form and function work in harmony. Buildings that not only look amazing but serve their purpose well. And also, buildings which reflect the culture of their location and contribute to it, rather than tug against it. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one such building.
Until my retirement last year I worked as a consultant in the UK public sector. My work took me all over the country, but very rarely out of it. But an exception was a piece of work that meant spending a few days in Abu Dhabi, presenting me with the chance to see a little of what was a new country for me.
My colleagues and I arranged to fly out a day early in order to allow a little time for sightseeing before starting our work; and top of my list of sights was this, the newly opened Louvre Museum. This striking building was developed in partnership with the Paris original and the French government; it is the first of several museums planned for the new Cultural District on Saadiyat Island where it is located. A Guggenheim Museum will follow; as will a museum devoted to the history of Abu Dhabi and named for its founder, Sheikh Zayed; and a performing arts centre which is being designed by one of my favourite architects, Zaha Hadid.
Despite being an offshoot of the Parisian Louvre, this is very different architecturally. It is the work of French architect Jean Nouvel, inspired by the architecture and traditions of the UAE. The museum website describes it as ‘a floating dome of light and shade’, and goes on to say:
The centrepiece of Nouvel’s vision is a huge silvery dome that appears to float above the entire museum-city. Despite its apparent weightlessness, the dome in fact weighs approximately 7,500 tonnes (the same as the Eiffel Tower in Paris). Inspired by the cupola, a distinctive feature in Arabic architecture, Nouvel’s dome is a complex, geometric structure of 7,850 stars, repeated at various sizes and angles in eight different layers. As the sun passes above, its light filters through the perforations in the dome to create an inspiring effect within the museum, known as the ‘rain of light’. This ode to nature and the elements takes its inspiration from the palm trees of Abu Dhabi. Their leaves catch the bright sunlight from above to dapple and soften its projection onto the ground.Louvre Abu Dhabi website
The dome arches over the 55 small buildings which constitute the museum. The intention was to create the appearance of a cluster of small, traditional houses, surrounded by the sea, as in an old coastal medina.
It was the architecture we had mainly come to see, as my companions had already been inside on a previous work trip here, and in any case we didn’t really have enough time for a proper visit. So we strolled around the exterior and took loads of photos, as every spot seemed to throw up a different vista of this striking building. The cool colours are perfect for this week’s Lens Artist Challenge theme, and the architecture is also pretty cool!
I visited Abu Dhabi in 2018