Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hadid Does the Louvre

Zaha, that is.

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These renderings are her design for the Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre in Paris. According to the institution's web page, "The Louvre's collection of Islamic art is currently displayed on the lower ground floor of the Richelieu wing, but will be transferred to newly created display areas in the Cour Visconti (Denon wing) over the next five years."

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This design is sure to be controversial for the way it forces itself into the classically-scaled and proportioned courtyard, as well as for its neo-Islamic / neo-Escher / neo-Libeskind's-vetoed-Victoria-and-Albert-Museum-ish skin. But I.M. Pei's glass pyramid caused quite a stir late last century and it has grown to be an accepted part of the Louvre and the city of Paris. Perhaps this won't be as controversial, given its secluded site.

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I actually find it rather appealing, if a bit arbitrary. The fluid, bending form creates an always-varying interstitial space in the courtyard as it rises to about the height of the existing cornice. By breaking the skin down to smaller elements either applied to or cut out of diamond-shaped metal panels, the skin has a better chance of looking similar to the renderings, as opposed to uniform skins that are so prevalent in renderings today but so hard to pull off. It would be interesting to see how the plans work inside and how the functions relate to the form of the intervention.

More images can be seen at kultureflash. (via dezain)

Update 12.20: After learning, via Javier's comment below, that Hadid's design is merely an entry in the competition for the Islamic Department and not the winner, I thought I'd better post some images (found here with more images here) of the winning design, by Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti.

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Rather than an iconographic object within the courtyard, the winning schemes opts for a "magic carpet" effect that plays down its presence in the space.

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Compared to Hadid's renderings, these don't even try to articulate scale or material in the gallery's roof surface. It begs the questions, "of what is it made?" and "can we walk on it?"

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Another question that arises is, "is the same program contained in both schemes?" The Hadid scheme seems to contain more, but that may be owing to its presence more than a guess as to floors and areas inside. Regardless, it should be interesting to see how the construction of this design unfolds in the years to come.