Spotlight: Louvre Abu Dhabi

The interior of the huge silvery dome from the central atrium of Louvre Abu Dhabi.


According to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, its success rest on “three cornerstones”: its architecture, its permanent collections and its high quality temporary exhibitions. For us, the best success is the multi-cultural connecting thread drawn through all of these.

A Cultural Beacon

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has become a symbol of cultural exchange where the combined vision, collaboration, and shared artifacts of two nations have come together with a fresh perspective. The United Arab Emirates and France, in unparalleled agreement, have created a living partnership with a universal scope of shared themes intended to reveal humanity’s connections. In a world of compartmentalisation, it is reassuring to feel the roundness of our shared historical culture.

The exterior, silvery dome of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

External shot of Louvre Abu Dhabi, highlighting the different architectural textures and the silvery domed roof.
The domed roof of Louvre Abu Dhabi, covering a space where land meets sea.
A person looking at the external architecture of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

At the museum’s inception, architect Jean Nouvel worked from a minimal brief and sought to create more than a building; he wanted a “neighbourhood of art” settled at the at the edge of land and sea. Casually elegant and loosely fitted together, the gallery residences spread out under a canopy of stars and light, and visitors are taken on a universal journey. This journey courses through “12 chapters” of cultural achievements, these unusually arranged chronologically from prehistory to the present day. This fresh organisation is intended to highlight our shared humanity by drawing a communal thread through different cultures and regions throughout the ages.

The final effect has ensured the Louvre Abu Dhabi has become the first universal museum in the Arab world and is a new cultural beacon.

The differing architectural textures connecting Louvre Abu Dhabi from land to sea.

An Architectural Masterwork

This museum, this interpretation, could only ever exist here. It is comfortable in its skin because it belongs here.

The lightness of the facility belies the complex engineering and other considerations. There is a casual looseness to the neighbourhood of gallery residences, and with a masterstroke, they are rounded up and organised with sublime confidence by a parasol. But not just any parasol, a dome, the ever-present symbol of Arabic architecture.

Now considered one of the modern urban wonders of the world, the building is the vision of Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. Nouvel was inspired by the region's architectural traditions and influenced by the Arabian sky as it meets the sand and waters surrounding Saadiyat Island. This building was to be “a sanctuary for the most precious works of art."

Interior close-up of the stainless steel and aluminum star dome of Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel.
Rain of light effect caused by the kaleidoscope-like dome roof showing inside the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The centerpiece of his creation is the dome, 7,500 tons of engineering mastery that seems to float. This mesmerising eight-layered construction of 7,850 stainless steel and aluminium stars creates a kaleidoscope of light play, ever-changing the interior landscape of the museum. This enchanting effect is known as the ‘rain of light’ and was designed as a tribute to the palm trees of Abu Dhabi, celebrating how ‘their leaves filter and soften sunlight, to project a dappled pattern on the ground’ (Louvre Abu Dhabi).

The dome, not just a pretty face, also serves double duty with its environmentally conscious design; it shades the building below whilst allowing natural daylight and airflow, cleverly reducing energy usage.

An exhibit on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi, featuring historic portrait paintings and a bronze statue.

Thoughtful down to the details

The design of the interior galleries coordinates with the exterior sensibilities and provides thoughtful spaces to feel the artworks. These spaces are light and well-defined and this doesn’t leave room for after-thoughts. It’s here we can see the thoughtful use of support products, or rather we see how they have been detailed to blend in.

Hanging flexibility is key for such a highly curated facility, and it’s hard to believe that Louvre Abu Dhabi has hidden over 1 kilometre of hanging track in plain sight. We also see that they carefully considered their art protection barriers and finish. When the entire building is an artwork, design and museum teams must constantly stand back to take in the wider perspective. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is paying attention.

The museum incorporated two of Absolute’s products to great effect and it is a pleasure to see them used as intended.

Two historic stone sculptures of the heads of two different men on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Series of paintings on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi, protected by museum barriers.

The Flush Mount Track is neatly detailed into a reveal on the wall that aligns with the top of the main passageways.  These reveals stop short of the passageway opening providing a neat linear punctuation where a change of wall colour occurs.

Absolute 400mm grey Freestanding Barriers compliment the range of finishes perfectly, and the architectural lines of the barrier do what they do best here, quietly holding and protecting the artwork’s space without interrupting the eye from artwork or the master artwork – the building itself.

Expert Advice

  1. Take the full environment where the product lives into consideration when selecting a finish. Especially in the instance where the building itself is an artwork, a darker finish may look good up-close, but becomes a distraction when stepping back for the wider perspective.

  2. Make the hanging track an integral detail so that it neatly blends into the walls. The Absolute Flush Mount Track is our most popular solution for a seamless finish.

Absolute offer specialist advice tailored to your project or space, so that you select a hanging system that meets both the technical and aesthetic needs.


Related Links

Images: Unsplash & @mayytthh on Instagram

Project Profile: The Louve Abu Dhabi

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Posted by Jade Turner
31st January 2023

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