After ten years waiting, last November the Abu Dhabi Louvre finally opened, a structure with a prestigious name composed by a futuristic building which is intended to become a new regional and international cultural hub. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel on the Saadiyat island – that was once a desert island but today is experimenting a construction revolution – the structure that hosts the Abu Dhabi Louvre is a building which combines perfectly the contemporary western architecture with the Islamic art, characteristic of the region.
The Abu Dhabi Louvre is a citadel by the sea composed by 55 buildings that can be visited, connected by alleys and narrow streets like an Arabian medina, its height and shape recalls the traditional houses of the region. The white colour of the buildings and the sea water that surround the structure are the cornerstone of Jean Nouvel’s project, to create that atmosphere of suspension and contemplation to emphasize the works of art on display.
The flagship symbol of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi is its dome, a structure formed by eight layers of steel weighing almost the same as that of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that covers the entire building. Through a geometric mpattern characteristic of Islamic Art, – the mashrabiya – the dome filter’s the sun’s rays creating a rain of light inside the building. The game of shadow and light coming from the steel dome reminds us of Jean Nouvel’s intention of making the sun’s rays pass through the typical palm leaves of the region, an hymn to nature and to the natural environment were the Louvre is situated in Abu Dhabi.
The exhibition rooms currently hosts around 600 artworks, half of which come from the Louvre in Paris and another 12 French museums, they have been divided into chronological and thematic galleries. Among all the different rooms, in the hall dedicated to all the universal religions, Judaism is also included, this is an absolut novelty for the country – The United Arab Emirates – that does not recognise the State of Israel. This was a very pleasant surprise. The Emir of Abu Dhabi explained the intention of this change in the new Louvre:
“a new cultural space that unites different cultures together, to illuminate the shared history of humanity in the new light.”
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of a great project launched by the Emir of Abu Dhabi to transform Saadiyat island and the city of Abu Dhabi in an international cultural district. In the same area, the visitors will also find the Zayed National Museum designed by Norman Foster, the maritime museum by Tadao Ando, the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry and the Performing Arts Centre designed by Zaha Hadid.