Friday, November 20, 2009

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The idea of a Louvre branch on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island is just mind-boggling. When completed in 2013, the museum will present "works drawn from the Louvre and other French museums and from its own permanent collection." But if the numbers in Adran Hornsby's article on the end of "starchitecture" in the latest Hunch are any indication -- approximately half of the $1.4 billion budget is allotted for "Louvre art loans and management and curatorial services" -- the majority of art will be shipped to Abu Dhabi.

But what art? Curators will have to pass on paintings depicting the female nude, a rather large canon of Western art, as Hornsby points out. So when thinking about a project that buys the use of the name Louvre, borrows its art, and is still largely undefined in terms of its contents, it seems appropriate that Jean Nouvel's design is basically a big roof, a dome over a bunch of buildings and outdoor space. The name and the architecture come before the contents, which are seen as just more items of international trade and commerce.

[architect and client under full-scale mock-up]

Yet I have to admit it's a pretty cool roof, one that filters the sun to minimize the heat from it but still celebrate it. The PR text describes it and the mock-up above:
"A key design element of the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be its great dome, 180 meters (almost 600 feet) in diameter, floating above a cluster of buildings and waterways. Perforated by interlaced patterns, the dome will let a diffused light filter magically into the spaces below. The prototype, 6 meters (approximately 20 feet) in diameter, is being used to test the play of light and shadows on the site prior to fabrication of the final structure"
[architect and client inside small-scale model of the Louvre Abu Dhabi]

Well, if the Louvre Abu Dhabi can't display the nude female body, why not giant statues of Jean Nouvel and Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan? Looks good to me.