Shedding light on the Louvre Abu Dhabi

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Major new global art gallery the Louvre Abu Dhabi offers a dazzling modern take on the region's traditional architecture. The Fizz takes an in-depth look at this inspiring space. Let there be light!

BY MELISSA VAN MAASDYK

After a 10-year wait, the US$650 million Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opened its doors in November 2017, becoming arguably the world’s first universal museum and a game changer for art curation.

‘I wanted this building to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography,’ says French architect Jean Nouvel of his design. A self-described ‘contextual’ architect, the Pritzker Prize winner believes that every space should be inspired by the environment in which it’s built and connected to its spirit, rather than reflecting a personal aesthetic vision.

The dome that crowns his latest masterpiece was therefore a natural choice, being a common sight in Middle Eastern cities, perched atop mosques and palaces. But this is no ordinary dome. Measuring 180 metres in diameter, it weighs an impressive 7,500 tonnes (almost as much as the Eiffel Tower) and is made up of eight layers of perforated stainless steel and aluminium cladding, which create a latticework of star-shaped patterns, through which light and air filter into the space below.

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TOP: The new Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior with the city skyline at night
ABOVE: The Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior, surrounded by sea and topped with Jean Nouvel's contemporary take on a classic dome

This feat of modern engineering was inspired by another traditional Middle Eastern design element, the mashrabiya, a screen with decorative arabesque holes cut out of it that offers shade and privacy, while allowing cool air to flow between the exterior and the interior – essential in the days before air conditioning. This also influenced Nouvel’s design for Paris’s Institut du Monde Arabe, which shot him to acclaim 30 years ago for ingeniously incorporating photo-electrically sensitive apertures to moderate the sunlight penetrating its façade.

For the Louvre, Nouvel has changed things up again, using the device horizontally rather than vertically, which, apart from constituting sustainable climate control, creates one of the most spectacular features of the space: what Nouvel refers to as a ‘rain of light’. Basically, light is refracted by the latticework, producing a dappled effect similar to sunlight passing through traditional woven palm-leaf rooves, which on this grand scale is utterly mesmerising – witness upturned gazes wherever you look.

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ABOVE: The view from the Louvre Abu Dhabi, overlooking the sea
BELOW: Filtering the sunlight, the 'rain of light' effect transforms the museum's interior

Balancing on hidden supports, the dome appears to hover like a spaceship above the man-made island of Saadiyat that houses the museum – at once traditional and futuristic. Below this, sheltered from the harsh desert sun, are 55 white flat-roofed buildings inspired by an Arabian medina (city), which include 23 interconnected galleries, a cafe, restaurant, auditorium, children’s museum and temporary exhibition spaces, all punctuated by courtyards, terraces and water channels, reminiscent of ancient irrigation systems. Navigating the labyrinthine alleyways in between is like exploring a seaside town with glimpses of the turquoise-green Arabian Gulf through intriguing gaps, but once you enter the galleries, you find yourself navigating the world.

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Artworks and artefacts from all corners of the globe are grouped according to theme and era, taking the visitor on a journey from prehistory to the present day, demonstrating commonalities between different civilisations. In one of the first galleries, three gold funereal masks dating from 300 to 100 BC are remarkably similar yet come from China, Syria and Peru. In the final contemporary gallery, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s ‘Fountain of Light’, made from repurposed chandeliers (referencing the Tower of Babel), is exhibited alongside Saudi Arabian artist Maha Mulluh’s ‘Food for Thought’, a striking tableau of black and grey circles, which, on closer inspection, are saucepans in which goat stew has been cooked. These are part of the permanent collection, joined by 300 loans from French institutions, including key works by Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet, part of the multi-million-dollar agreement that also granted Abu Dhabi the use of the Louvre’s name for 30 years.

ABOVE: Giuseppe Penone's 'Leaves of Light' bronze tree installation in the plaza, dappled with light. BELOW: Artefacts from diverse continents cheek by jowl in the museum's Grand Vestibule

Art spills into the outdoor space too, home to a site-specific installation by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone entitled ‘Leaves of Light’, a towering bronze tree with mirrors in its branches that catch and multiply the ‘rain of light’. This cohabits with a commission by American Jenny Holzer incorporating three stone walls engraved with excerpts from historical texts in Cuneiform, Arabic and French, and an 18th-century fountain and pavement from Damascus.

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ABOVE: The dreamy plaza at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

It is this constant dialogue and interplay between artworks from different regions that has earned Louvre Abu Dhabi the title of the world’s ‘first universal museum’. Described by French president Emmanuel Macron as the ‘Louvre of the desert and of light’, a bridge between east and west and between continents and generations, it's living up to its aim to show humanity in a new light.
louvreabudhabi.ae
Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Pictures: Mohamed Somji, Marc Domage, Roland Halbe

Rone: The Omega Project

Australian street artist Rone transformed a condemned Melbourne house in haunting installation The Omega Project

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

We live in a time of constant churn, where old buildings are demolished to make way for the shiny and new. Capturing a moment of nostalgia, beauty and decay, Melbourne mural artist Rone has created The Omega Project, transforming the interior of a condemned weatherboard suburban house in the city's north with his signature wistful 'Jane Doe' female characters. Check out the space, open until Sunday 30 July, or tour its haunting rooms here, including an evocative video preserving the installation for posterity.

ABOVE: The Blue Room at Rone's Omega Project
BELOW: The Hallway

ABOVE: The Living Room

'This was an opportunity to recreate elements of a classic mid-century Australian home in its fragile final moments,' says Rone, 'drawing from memories of homes that I visited growing up, and of the many abandoned houses I have recently explored.' He leapt at the chance to celebrate the early 1900s home at the invitation of residential developer YarraBend, which will demolish this property by the end of the month. Inspired by the idea of a 'fantasy film set', Rone crafted murals for each room, using Taubmans paint to colour the blue bedroom and kitchen, green and mauve dining rooms, sepia living room and yellowed hallway. Stylist Carly Spooner curated the time capsule of dusty, mid-century Australiana ornaments and objects, from a wood-grain TV to figurines and retro phones, with one bedroom strewn with autumn leaves.

Doomed environments draw Rone, who previously memorialised the soon-to-be-demolished Star Lyric Theatre in Melbourne's Fitzroy with in-situ exhibition 'Empty' in 2016. He's also internationally known for his large-scale street art works, from London to New York and Hong Kong, and recently completed a huge portrait of a farming couple for Victoria's rural Silo Art Trail.

We love the video below of The Omega Project, a dreamy, bitter-sweet fragment of the melancholy interiors shot by Defero Productions for Rone's street art collective Everfresh Studio, set to music by Julia Stone. You can also see more sensual glimpses of the atmospheric house on Rone's Instagram feed, a fitting homage to lives lived and spaces lost...
r-o-n-e.com

The Omega Project is open for inspection at 28 Parkview Road, Alphington, 10 minutes' north of the Melbourne CBD, from 10am-5pm, until Sunday 30 July 2017.

Pictures: Tyrone Wright
 

In the pink at Normann Copenhagen

Normann Copenhagen's dramatic new Danish design showroom is soooo pretty in pink

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

2017's colour trend competition is already hotting up, with Pantone plumping for Greenery as their Color of the Year, and DesignFizz and other interiors experts predicting moody blues will reign. Danish design brand Normann Copenhagen shows there is a third way, picking wall-to-wall pink for their new Copenhagen showroom Gallery space. Following on from fashion trends, it's proof that pale, barely there nudes, beautiful blush hues, romantic rose, feisty fuchsia and hot pink can command attention, from monochrome-styled spaces to eye-catching furniture and accessories. 

ABOVE: Pink power rules in Normann Copenhagen's new Gallery space, below their flagship showroom in the Danish capital, taking over walls, floors and even the ceiling
ABOVE RIGHT: The brand's gorgeous 'Geo' storage jars by Nicholai Wiig Hansen include Blush hues
BELOW: Plush velvety pink-carpeted stairs lead down to the subterranean Gallery

Enter the recently revamped flagship showroom at Osterbrogade 70 and the ground-floor, set in an old cinema, is a vision of glamorous modernity, with a raw, industrial feel.  Oyster-grey walls meet a neutral palette of epoxy, brushed steel, terrazzo, reflective glass and glossy acrylic, with areas divided into a Hall, Stage and Ballroom. So far, so appealingly normal. In a twist worthy of Alice in Wonderland, though, a metal shaft leads from the middle of the showroom down into the lower Gallery space, and that's where the colour comes in. Cue 'pure pink pandemonium'.

ABOVE: A row of steel 'Cap' table lamps in Blush, by German duo KaschKasch, perch on pink plinths in the Gallery; Curated fashion items are displayed in a clear box; Tone-on-tone styling brings a blush to the cheeks of the 'Swell' armchair by Jonas Wagell

Plush pink carpet covers the stairs descending to the subterranean zone. A nude 'Swell' sofa stands in pride of place, surrounded by a pink harem of chairs and lights, perched on pink podiums and flanked by rosy columns. The effect is intended to be both beguilingly feminine and borderline disturbing, channeling the look and feel of a fleshy organism or bodily innards. A site-specific installation by Danish artist Nina Holmgren, entitled 'Fresh fools in a pool of pink salty tears' and including aquatic sounds and story fragments, adds more pink attitude, along with her curated playlists.

'We wanted to give visitors the feeling they're moving around in an art installation,' says Danish designer Hans Hornemann, who developed the concept of the new showroom alongside brand manager Britt Bonnesen. 'We've played with the contrast between warm and cold in a contemporary interior environment.' The Gallery aims to offer an experimental, artistic universe, that will host changing, transformative concepts.

ABOVE: Pink shopping opportunities at Normann Copenhagen include the 'Flip' mirror in Blush, extra large 'Nyhavn' vase in Plum, 'Nic Nac Organiser 2' container in Light Pink, 'Geo' vacuum jug in White, and small 'Circus' pouf in Blush velour
BELOW: Stairway from the pink Gallery back up to the neutral-hued main showroom, including pink floors and ceiling

Normann Copenhagen's showroom makeover was unveiled in late 2016, and will continue to evolve, with new looks coming to the Gallery. If you're passionate about on-trend pink you can shop the look, with a bunch of pink-hued products available from the creative Danish brand, including kitchen kit, desk storage, mirrors and poufs. And if wall-to-wall pink feels like overkill in your home, aim for a painted feature wall and accent details instead. 'With the right nuances and styling, pink can be very exclusive, classic and sophisticated,' says Bonnesen. 
normann-copenhagen.com

Normann Copenhagen's showroom is at Osterbrogade 70, Copenhagen, Denmark or shop the range online

MPavilion 2016

Indian architect Bijoy Jain brings handmade bamboo architecture to Melbourne's latest MPavilion

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Melbourne's MPavilion series of temporary pavilions is always inspiring, with 2016's offering by Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai demonstrating that there is still a place for natural materials in the 21st century. Formed from seven kilometres of bamboo, 26 kilometres of rope and 50 tonnes of stone, the 16.8 metre square summer pavilion represents traditional craft. 'I want it to be a symbol of the elemental nature of communal structures,' says Jain, 'A space to discover the essentials of the world and of one's self.'

ABOVE AND TOP: 2016's MPavilion in Melbourne is formed from sleek bamboo, rope and stone, with an adjacent entrance tower

Launched this October by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, the pavilion is in Queen Victoria Gardens opposite NGV International. Check out the space while enjoying coffee by Three Thousand Thieves (daily, 9am–4pm), or take part in the free four-month programme of events, which spans design and architecture workshops and talks, live music and DJs, yoga and installations, films and fashion shows, kids' activities, dog walks and even a zombie dance class.

ABOVE FROM TOP: An opening in the square pavilion roof connects earth and sky; below it a golden well celebrates water within the paved, airy interior

In contrast to the contemporary, high-tech visions of the previous two annual pavilions – by Sean Godsell and Amanda Levete of AL_A – Studio Mumbai's calming, low-fi structure is part of an international movement championing handmade, human-centred architecture. Jain believes in 'lore', a body of traditional knowledge passed on by word of mouth. At Studio Mumbai this translates into working collaboratively with local artisans and craftspeople to design and build projects though an explorative, creative process. The result harnesses generations-old skills, building techniques and materials, and the ingenuity that arises from working with limited resources. The studio also aims to reflect each location, here the natural park setting, producing architecture 'that contains the life of its environment.'

ABOVE: Models and sketches contributed to the design development

Set on a bluestone floor, sourced from Victoria's Port Fairy, MPavilion features an opening in the centre of its roof to connect earth to sky. Below it sits a golden well symbolising water's vital status. Bamboo poles from India are pegged with wooden pins and lashed together with rope. Slatted roof panels hail from the karvi plant, with sticks woven together by Indian craftspeople. Beside the pavilion a 12-metre-high 'tazia' entrance tower, used in Indian ceremonies, provides a dynamic welcome. Lighting by Ben Cobham of Bluebottle transforms the pavilion at twilight in sync with a soundscape by artists Geoff Nees and J David Franzke.

ABOVE: Naomi Milgrom commissioned Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai to create 2016's MPavilion

Popular throughout Asia as a building material, bamboo is still widely used as scaffolding even in cutting-edge cities such as Hong Kong. Earlier on the Fizz we shared Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia's 'Green Ladder' bamboo installation, still on show at Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, inspired by the eco-friendly potential of this 'green steel'. Ilse Crawford's 2016 'Viktigt' collection for IKEA also celebrated bamboo as a flexible, eco-chic material for furniture and homewares. 2016's MPavilion proves nature and architecture can walk hand in hand – the perfect match for summer...
mpavilion.org
MPavilion is at Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne until 18 February 2017

Pictures: John Gollings; models and sketches, Studio Mumbai

Frette x Dimorestudio

London's Mayfair has just had an injection of modern Italian style at the new Frette store in South Audley Street. The Fizz says molto bene!

BY DEE IVA

Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran of Milanese design studio Dimorestudio have brought the glamour and sophistication of a sleek Italian palazzo to the new Frette store in London’s Mayfair.

Opulent materials such as Marquina marble, emerald green glass and brushed brass create a stylish space to showcase Frette’s new Autumn Winter collections of luxury bed, bath and table linens, and nightwear. We’re particularly loving the beautiful duck egg blue walls, the colour-zoned floors and the elegant illuminated stairwell which features black glazed metal set on opal white glass. If you feel the need to take a pew, classic designs including Gerrit Rietveld's 'Utrecht' armchair and Charlotte Perriand's 'LC7' chair for Cassina are dotted around too. 

ABOVE: Glossy dark blue cabinets with brushed brass handles, full height sliding panels and clever lighting are just some of the luxe details in Frette's new London showroom
BELOW: Black marble and polished concrete is used to great effect. We love the change of colour in the floors to mark out different zones 

ABOVE: Incorporating emerald green and opal white glass, black metal, concrete and steel, the illuminated stairwell is a masterful mix of materials 

To mark the opening of the new Mayfair boutique, Brit designer Ashley Hicks has collaborated with Frette on a new range of embroidered geometric bed linen that will be exclusive to the store and available online in the UK. If you’re in the market for something more bespoke, head down to the lower ground floor where you can add your own touches to any item from Frette’s collections. 

Dimorestudio has pulled out all the design stops here, so much so that we just want to bed down and snuggle up for the night. Zzz...
frette.com  dimorestudio.eu