The product of architect Jean Nouvel’s unique vision, Louvre Abu Dhabi was constructed as the heart of a new urban quarter for the United Arab Emirates’ capital city. A symphony in concrete, water and the subtle play of reflected light, its design was inspired by the region’s rich architectural traditions and the museum’s unique location at the point where the Arabian sky meets the sands of Saadiyat Island and the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Now considered as one of the modern urban wonders of the world, Louvre Abu Dhabi is not only the Arab world’s first universal museum but a powerful symbol of the United Arab Emirates’ ambition and achievement.
A floating dome of light and shade
The centrepiece of Nouvel’s vision is a huge silvery dome that appears to float above the museum-city. Despite its apparent weightlessness, the dome weighs around 7,500 tonnes (similar to 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. These stars are 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 enchanting effect within the museum, known as the ‘rain of light'. This tribute to nature is inspired by the palm trees of Abu Dhabi. Their leaves filter and soften the bright sunlight from above to project a dappled pattern on the ground.
A museum-city in the sea
“A welcoming world serenely combining light and shadow, reflection and calm. It aims to belong to a country, to its history, to its geography – without being a simple interpretation. And emphasise a fascination with unusual discoveries.”
Louvre Abu Dhabi architect Jean Nouvel.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is surrounded by water, where visitors can arrive by land or sea. Just like wandering the narrow streets of an Arabian medina, visitors can explore the 55 buildings, of which 23 are galleries. They are architecturally inspired by the low-rise homes of the region.
Along the exterior walkways, Visitors can take a break, think about and discuss the artworks, as well as enjoy the ever-changing relationship between sun, sea, art and architecture.
As well as being a thing of beauty, the dome reduces the energy consumption of the buildings below. It shades the outdoor plaza from the heat of the sun. And it provides an unparalleled experience when wandering between the buildings through the ‘rain of light’.
An environmental micro-climate
Louvre Abu Dhabi’s design is set for the environmental-excellence rating ‘Silver LEED’ status. It has also achieved a Three Pearl Estidama Design Rating.
The museum creates a comfortable microclimate. Thanks to passive cooling, inspired by designs in local culture and traditional regional architecture. Louvre Abu Dhabi also employs passive water and energy conservation and highly efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as lighting and sanitary fittings.
The patterned roof permits daylight without too much heating or wind, and features such as the stone floor and wall cladding keep the building cooler for longer as the day heats up.
Facts and figures
7,500 t – the total weight of the dome – similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
8 layers – the layers of the dome. Four outer layers of stainless steel, four inner layers of aluminium.
7,850 – the number of ‘stars’ in the dome’s pattern.
13 m across – the largest ‘star’, which also weighs 1.3 t.
4 – the number of piers that support the dome to make it ‘float’. Each is 110 m apart, hidden within the structure.
180 m – the diameter of the dome’s base.
40 m above sea level – the level of the building.
36 m – the level of the dome above ground.