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

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

citizenM Tower of London

citizenM refines the concept of the boutique hotel with its latest bastion of style in Tower Hill, London. Let's groove tonight...

BY DEE IVA

The imminent relocation of the Design Museum from Shad Thames to leafy Kensington has rung alarm bells at the Fizz. For 27 years it was East London's temple of modern design, in stark contrast to its historic dockyard surroundings and the grandeur of the Tower of London. When its doors closed on 30 June we thought that part of London might be crossed off the design trail for good.

Now a new design hotspot has opened a stone's throw from the old Design Museum site. Dutch hotel brand citizenM has taken up residence in Tower Hill, bringing its signature mix of design showroom/chillax zone to East London with the launch of citizenM Tower of London. The hipster vibe of its sister hotel, citizenM Bankside, has travelled well to the other side of the Thames but has been tweaked with a dash of BritPop street style. 

ABOVE: The Living Room mixes iconic British emblems with sleek leather banquettes and dark shelving
ABOVE RIGHT: The neo Brutalist glass and limestone exterior of citizenM Tower Hill
BELOW: Double height windows look out on to some of London's most iconic buildings

ABOVE: Post-punk images of the Queen reflect the wry British sense of humour

The hotel's Brutalist exterior gives no clue as to what lies inside. Echoes of Sex Pistols' designer Jamie Reid are present in graphic illustrations of the Queen which adorn the walls of the communal areas, while cushions bearing Union Jacks, Welsh dragons and the Scottish flag sit proudly in the Living Room. In the post-Brexit climate this could easily be mistaken for nationalist pomp and circumstance, but in the hands of citizenM's Amsterdam-based design team Concrete it's nothing of the kind as these recognisable elements of British design are mixed with vibrant coloured 'Cone' chairs by Verner Panton for Vitra and George Nelson's classic 'Bubble' lamps. Julian Opie's distinctive line artworks featuring his signature flat colours and black outlines will also be familiar to BritPop fans (Opie created the album artwork of 'Blur: The Best Of' in 2000).

BELOW: Verner Panton chairs and George Nelson lights bring a touch of retro-classicism to citizenM; Julian Opie's paintings may not be for sale but you can snap up contemporary pieces from collectionM, a curated collection of accessories, books, and art and design objects; Communal tables, iMacs and printers are available if you need to be in work mode

Foodies are well catered for with coffeeM, where you can down a macchiato and a pastry on your way in or out of the hotel, and canteenM, a round-the-clock open kitchen which serves tasty treats from carrot cakes to curries and a wide selection of cocktails. Lovers of the London skyline should head straight to cloudM, the double-height rooftop bar which offers spectacular views of the Tower of London, The Shard, The Gherkin and the controversial 'Walkie-Talkie'.

BELOW: canteenM serves a wide selection of hot food and cool cocktails around the clock

Thankfully, the 370 bedrooms at citizenM are tranquil sanctuaries, away from the visual razzmatazz of the public areas. Extra large beds, rainshowers and lush toiletries designed by Commes des Garçons, Viktor&Rolf and Helmut Lang are installed in all rooms and mood tablets allow you to control the lighting, blinds and room temperature from under your duvet. Seriously, if this isn't the coolest hotel in old London town we don't know what is. And with a new 216-room sister hotel just launched in Shoreditch, we reckon we'll all be applying for citizenship...
citizenm.com

Serpentine Pavilion 2016

London's 2016 Serpentine Pavilion unzipped! A triumph of materials and form, Bjarke Ingels' intriguing design is accompanied by four startling Summer Houses

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

It wouldn't be summer in London without the annual unveiling of the Serpentine Pavilion, bringing cutting-edge modern architecture to Kensington Gardens beside the Serpentine Gallery. 2016's Serpentine Architecture Programme sees Denmark's Bjarke Ingels take centre stage with a jaw-dropping pavilion inspired by an 'unzipped wall'. Whereas 2015's pavilion by Spain's SelgasCano was all about psychedelic colour, Ingels' creation explores poetic material form.

Design fans can also explore four accompanying Summer Houses by international talents – Asif Khan, Kunlé Adeyemi, Barkow Leibinger and Yona Friedman – as part of an expanded offering for the 16th edition, on show until 9 October 2016. All riff on Queen Caroline's Temple, a classical 1734 summer house by William Kent a skip from the gallery. What's more, each temporary structure showcases an architect who has never built in the UK before.

ABOVE: Serpentine Pavilion 2016 by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
ABOVE RIGHT: Danish architect Bjarke Ingels in front of his pavilion
BELOW: An 'unzipped wall', Ingels' pavilion is formed from stacked, sculptural fibreglass frames with an inviting chamber within 

SERPENTINE PAVILION
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Transforming a straight line into a three-dimensional space, Copenhagen/New York-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)'s Serpentine Pavilion takes its cue from an 'unzipped wall'. The cavity within becomes a dramatic space for a daytime cafe, events and the Park Nights cultural programme, while the elegant spire above acts as a cathedral-like beacon. It's simultaneously cubic and curvy, chunky and translucent, geometric and ethereal, or as Ingels puts it: 'A structure that is freeform yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both solid box and blob.'

Borrowing its structure from a basic brick wall, it is formed from fibreglass frames rather than clay bricks or stone blocks, with the wall then pulled apart to reveal the cave-like interior. 'This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space,' says Ingels. The effect is part valley, part hillside, setting up seductive repetitions and undulations via waves of component blocks, harnessing graphic light and shade. Inspiring recent projects by BIG include 2 World Trade Center in New York and the Danish National Maritime Museum.
 

SERPENTINE SUMMER HOUSES

Asif Khan
Up-and-coming London architect Asif Khan discovered that the original Queen Caroline's Temple was positioned to catch the sunlight from the nearby Serpentine Lake, as well as the rising sun on the queen's birthday, and aims to recapture that combination in his delicate Serpentine Summer House. A sinuous circle of white timber staves, its circumference has been unpeeled, allowing changing views of the temple. A polished mirrored platform and roof inside amplify the experience. Khan's past work includes the colourful Coca-Cola Beatbox Pavilion at the London Olympics and Littlehampton's contemporary West Beach Cafe.


Kunlé Adeyemi
Kunlé Adeyemi (head of Amsterdam/Lagos practice NLÉ) offers an inverse, rotated replica of Queen Caroline's Temple for his Serpentine Summer House, turning its robust form into a reimagined sculptural installation. Shelter and relaxation is still the name of the game, with rough, prefabricated sandstone building blocks forming a room, doorway and window for visitors to interact with the space and each other. While the sandstone is similar to the temple's materials, the interior surfaces are softer. Adeyemi's combination of carved-out void, homely interior and fragmented furniture blocks offers a deconstructed, playful temple for the 21st century. If you love it check out his prototype Makoko Floating School designed for a Lagos lagoon.


Barkow Leibinger
Barkow Leibinger (Berlin/New York) took inspiration from another, extinct 18th-century pavilion by William Kent, on a man-made hill near the gallery, which rotated and offered 360-degree views of the park. At some point it disappeared, until this 2016 Summer House in-the-round paid homage to the original. Open to its surroundings, it looks like a ribbon, thanks to its undulating structural band of plywood on a steel frame. Loopy but lovely, it's somewhere to see and be seen.


Yona Friedman
A squiggly modular design that can be arranged in different formations, Parisian veteran Yona Friedman's Summer House picks up on his pioneering late 1950s project La Ville Spatiale (Spatial City). A space-chain structure, representing a fragment of a larger grid, it explores mobile architecture using elevated space to save on land footprint (vital for growing cities). It also encourages customisable spaces, allowing residents to define their own modular homes – a future-forward vision by this 93-year-old visionary.

BELOW: The original, classical Queen Caroline's Temple by William Kent, inspiration for all four summer houses

www.serpentinegalleries.org
The Serpentine Pavilion is open daily (free entry), 10am-6pm, until 9 October 2016 at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London W2 (closed 6 July until 1pm 7 July). Event programme Park Nights runs until 23 September 2016. 

Photos by Iwan Baan; Queen Caroline's Temple photo by Garry Knight

Tate Modern Switch House

Bold and beautiful, Switch House, Tate Modern's iconic new wing, is a welcome addition to London's South Bank 

BY DEE IVA

When London’s Tate Modern opened in 2000 on the South Bank of the Thames it was the talk of the town. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron transformed a derelict power station into the world’s most popular modern art gallery. Its sheer scale and industrial aesthetic was not only a perfect backdrop to the vast collection of contemporary artworks and high-profile exhibitions but also captured the late Nineties minimalist zeitgeist.

Now, 16 years later, Tate Modern has an exciting new extension that is bound to set tongues wagging again. With its twisted, angular shape and horizontal slashes for windows, the 10-storey, pyramid-like Switch House is a bold addition to the original gallery, increasing display space by 60 per cent. Launching on 17 June 2016, its unveiling will be accompanied by a total rehang of the gallery's international collection, including fresh acquisitions. 

ABOVE: The brutal, modernist style of the new Switch House complements the existing Tate Modern
ABOVE RIGHT: Sharp angles and horizontal lines bring a new architectural language to the South Bank
BELOW: Light filters through the lattice skin of bricks; snaking staircases, concrete and pale woods create airy industrial spaces within

Set above the underground tanks once used to store oil for the original power station, Herzog and de Meuron's new baby is the most important cultural building to open in London in almost 20 years. Its size and unusual torqued shape has already divided opinion with descriptions ranging from beautiful to brutalist. Using polished concrete, pale wooden floors, exposed girders and snaking staircases, the Switch House continues Tate Modern's industrial vibe but its most striking feature is the ingenious external perforated lattice of 336,000 bricks which allows light to filter through in the day and seep out at night. Three floors of galleries are accompanied by a restaurant, members' room and rooftop terrace offering panoramic 360-degree views over London. And the old subterranean tanks, each measuring over 30 metres across and seven metres high, have now been revamped as The Tanks to house live performances, interactive art and video installations.

With the Design Museum due to move from Shad Thames to the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington later this year – closing on 30 June and reopening on 24 November – the capital's art and design scene will soon be graced by two spectacular pieces of publicly accessible architecture that can hold their own on the international stage. It's proof of just how important the arts are to the city and more evidence of London's cutting-edge creativity.
tate.org.uk

BELOW: The tenth-floor viewing platform at Switch House can also be hired for events for up to 150 guests; Switch House really comes alive at night as it glows in the dark 

Tate Modern Switch House launches on 17 June 2016. To mark the opening weekend there will be a host of free events including film, music, tours and workshops from 17-19 June (10am-10pm). For more information visit tate.org.uk; Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1.

Photos: Iwan Baan