The crowning jewel of the Louvre Abu Dhabi rises as something between an umbrella and a palm tree. The cupola-style dome, found in traditional Arabic architecture, gives the appearance that the Louvre Abu Dhabi is floating above the base, even though it weighs in at a whopping 7500 tons, the same as the Eiffel tower. In stark contrast to the uber-modern, even extravagant skyline of Abu Dhabi, the dome is unmistakable and not lost in the middle of this oil-rich city, where sheikhs and dignitaries arrive in expensive cars from their many-storied office buildings.
A City without Rain
In a desert oasis, the dome belies the truth: it rarely rains here. Therefore, a structure riddled with openings, but which provides shade to a region where temperatures soaring above 40° are common, is well-suited to the climate. Shade ensures that visitors can stroll throughout the facility in relative comfort, with the combination of dark and light providing a respite from temperature extremes.
Jean Nouvel, Architect
Jean Nouvel is both artist and architect. His work is characterized by unique approach and his own style. His works span the globe, from the United States to Spain, Denmark to UAE. He has won countless awards and took pride in designing a facility which would bring together some of the characteristics of the middle east on this bare stretch of land. The 10-year project with BuraHappold Engineering, was met with challenges, from the more typical delays like financial revisions, to the scandals of regional turmoil and human rights accusations, has emerged a memorial to the UAE, both past, present, and future.
The Rain of Light
The filtered sunlight it allows to pass through creates a community in its embrace, providing shade even in sheltered open spaces, tying together the varied venues. The structure has a delicate look to it yet boasts 8 immense layers: 4 inner layers of aluminum and 4 outer layers of stainless steel. Designed for this earthquake-prone area, the dome flexes up to 180 millimeters. Impressive from both above and below, the effects of the filtered light evolve as the day (and the sun) passes overhead. Additionally, only 4 piers, hidden within the structure, support the dome, giving the impression that it floats above the galleries and museums below.
The Museum Experience
Visitors are greeted with breathtaking beauty, arriving by either vehicle or boat, and are quick to see the unity of both sun and water, inside and outside the 24,000 square meter complex. Inside, they are rewarded by a combination of galleries, presenting art in unique ways not seen in other museums with expansive collections. As they stroll through the buildings, light trickles through the dome, casting unique shadows and creating an atmosphere of a traditional middle eastern town, with walls separating sections and art found inside and out. Water flows throughout, adding to the ambiance and enhancing the calming effect.
An Engineering Marvel
Ten years in the making and likely to be emulated in the future, the Rain of Light showcases the connection between East and West, past and present, and ties technological advances to traditional architecture. Before the museum was even completed, it received three international awards. It is truly a gem for both UAE leaders and visitors alike.