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Raining Light of the Louvre

Updated: Sep 28, 2018

Finally! After years of anticipation, Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public on 11 November 2017 (and after considering the experience, I'm finally finishing my post about the event). In a country full of iconic architecture - like the world's tallest, Burj Khalifa, and the "leaning" Capital Gate Building - this may be considered the glittering crown. The impressive complex is the work of Jean Nouvel who used local geometric design patterns layered into a dome to create a "rain of light" below.

Architecturally innovative and geniously implemented, the façade of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by architect and artist, Jean Nouvel, draws as much attention as the galleries within.
Approaching the Louvre Abu Dhabi on opening day.

The result is a venue of ever-changing light and shadows that provides relief from the desert sun for 55 structures, including 23 gallery buildings. This "village" is modelled after an Arabian medina and the thoughtful design invites guests to wander through the space.

Intricate lattice work of Arabian inspired designs cover the Louvre Abu Dhabi and add another iconic architectural destination to the UAE landscape.
Raining light from the dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Built "into" the sea, Nouvel's use of water, light, and geometry grace the architectural landscape with a peaceful environment where visitors contemplate works of art or simply have time for reflection while watching light pass along white walls, or dhows (traditional wooden boats) float by in the Arabian Gulf.

Traditional dhows can be seen floating by the Lourvre Abu Dhabi and the museum can be accessed by boat or by land. The museum is curiously built into the Arabian Gulf.
Situated in the Arabian Gulf, the Louvre Abu Dhabi can be accessed by land and sea.

As a visitor and user of the space, I observer that form and function coexist like the "chicken and the egg" (although, by all time and fiduciary accounts, function likely followed form on this plot of land and Gulf water). The feeling of being welcome to walk through a complex of space that is meant to be freely explored and used is refreshing. It is apparent that even tiny details in the architectural design were attended to - just as the details of the museum's story are thoughtfully woven together through the collections of art and forms that guests explore through time and geography.

The variety of gallery rooms travel through time, from ancient human forms found in Jordan to the post-modern artwork of today. The curators thoughtfully integrated Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism (three religions most well-represented in the UAE) in this timeline of galleries, juxtaposing otherwise unfamiliar pieces from each religion next to each other.

This "village" is modelled after an Arabian Medina. The beautiful façade "rains light" onto the structures below.
The Medina sits under the latticed dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

For me, visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi was an inspiring journey and a good reminder that thoughtful, inviting, and usable designs (whether it be in a database, street map, document, restaurant menu, service plan, packaging, master plan, or interior concept) can make an enormous difference in the way people/users perceive and navigate the world around them. What are each of us doing to design better spaces to live, die, work, and play in?


© 2017 Andrea Rip | The Earth Ink. All Rights Reserved.

Originally posted on 27 March 2018 at

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