Louvre Abu Dhabi: creating a canvas for Jean Nouvel’s ‘Rain of Light’


Workers repair minor imperfections to the ultra-high performance fibre reinforced concrete panels that form the cladding of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National
Workers repair minor imperfections to the ultra-high performance fibre reinforced concrete panels that form the cladding of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National

When it comes to design, simple things are usually designed and made simply, and it is only when complex things cannot be simplified that they remain as they are.

But as anybody who has used touchscreen technology or even a particularly efficient website may have realised, achieving the semblance of simplicity can often be a very complex business indeed.

Such is the case with the cladding that now envelops the galleries that are nearing completion beneath the giant saucer-shaped roof of Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.

At first sight, there could not be a greater contrast between the 180 metre-wide canopy and the “museum city” that shelters beneath it.

The complexity of the museum’s mighty canopy is visible for all to see. It is dense, multi-layered and interconnected, like a giant woven constellation or some enormous upturned nest.

The galleries that now sit beneath, however, could not appear more different. Dressed in what look like enormous blocks of smooth, finely-cut white stone, the buildings are the very model of simplicity; the stark contrast is intended, of course.

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s complex canopy consists of eight layers of aluminium and stainless steel stars that will generate what promises to be the museum’s piece de resistance, Jean Nouvel’s ‘Rain of Light’ Sylvia Razgova / The National

In one important respect, however, the museum’s buildings and canopy are more similar than they seem. Both rely on a complex system of cladding to achieve the effect desired by their architect, Ateliers Jean Nouvel.

For more on this story, read The National

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