Leaves, by Nouvel

Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Approaching the Louvre Museum in Abi Dhabi from the city, the white, low cupola seems a flattened echo of the round cupolas found in Arab architecture.

Approaching from the water, the shaded space shows its scattered light, which continues the sparkling light of the water onto the architecture.

On a more abstract level, the museum is a ‘city’ with houses, streets and plaza’s that is ‘protected’ from the sun by a Buckminster Fuller kind of dome. If we fold it a bit further: if ‘protection’ becomes ‘conservation’, we could also read in it all a small Pompeii. The cupola becomes the ash that conserves a civilization.

This latter reading is a beautiful one, as it is abstract metaphor of the essence of a museum like the Louvre: exhibiting what is conserved. In a way a museum represents the selection of those things we value enough to preserve is.

The Pompeii iconography also means that one walks in an excavation-site, an exciting place where new things can be found around every corner, behind every door, triggering curiosity. When everything becomes a theme park, this museum is probably the subtlest one of all.

Ironically the building also represents a ruin, in its original state.

Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Caught in a wave of enthusiasm about this stunning design, I forget to tell you that its designer is French — Jean Nouvel. The fragmented layout of the building is a feature that more of his works have, and his fascination with glimmering surfaces is apparent, but all together it is one of the most amazing architectures I have seen in a while.

We have seen Zaha Hadid aerodynamic stuff; it is time for something else. And Jean Nouvel career seems to have made a promising turn after the controversial ‘penis’ in Barcelona and the ‘Disney’ Musée du Quai Branly museum in Paris. The Louvre Museum in Abi Dhabi is however very, very promising.

If we proceed into the building the iconography shifts. The most dominant iconography is that of leaves filtering the sun.

Leaves filtering light, shadows (Photographer: Washed Up/Flickr)
Leaves filtering light, shadows (Photographer: Washed Up/Flickr)

Secondary iconographies include: a disco-ball, a cracked egg, and the Pantheon in Rome.

The beautiful cupola made me think of defensive architecture. Could such a big construction also be at help against (urban warfare), such as mortar fire and/or small rockets — could a UN-post in Darfur (Congo) be secured by a couple of such protective domes? If so, the construction could maybe even lowered onto the ground in case of emergency, and lifted upwards when violence decreases, representing directly the state of peace-keeping.

Related: Extension of the Louvre Museum in Paris, by Zaha Hadid; The White Cube.

Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel - Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jean Nouvel – Louvre Museum, Abi Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages. 

Big versions of the images can be found on Flickr.

2 Comments

Hi there.Firstly, I must really commend you for such a great website. Its really insightful and a rare architectural website with such critical thoughts… every subject you had pointed out certainly deserve more thoughts. Particularly now in Asia, where stylistic design rules the entire architectural climate, little attention is paid to the origins or perhaps the fundamental of asian architecture. One of the more prominent architects, who is able to translate the essence of Space true to the original asian context, is Kengo Kuma. As an architect who is a part academia, I am now writing an article for a conference about asian architecture and the meaning of shadows. After sieving through the signature Asian Architectural works, I think Kengo Kuma’s projects had subtly embodied the true beauty of Asian Architect, particularly in the translation of how the environment can be successfully engaged, the relationship between the inside and outside.

I was wondering if you could provide me with any insightful thoughts on what do you think about my opinion about the modern asian architecture being too stylistic, and perhaps share your thoughts on how modern japanese architecture had been too “suck” into the vicious design trap of being too pleasing in the eye or too stereotypical of what the critics refer to as the minimalistic japanese architectural style, yet too divorced from its original context. Would be extremely glad if you could share your thoughts with me on this. Thanks a zillion.

Hi Swee, thanks for your compliments.

Did you read the entry: The Endgame of Minimalism?
http://www.eikongraphia.com/?p=1430

But that is only one point of many one could make. One of the main other problems of minimalism, I think, that it is exhausted as a set of architectural elements. Is there still room for something new, something more interesting. I doubt it.

More than Kenga Kuma, I think SANAA is doing a great job in still finding lots of space for innovation… Minimalism has a future, but like anything else there will be a lot of bad minimalism and just some really nice ones.

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