Shedding light on the Louvre Abu Dhabi

DSCF9849_42m_xl.jpg

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.

DSCF9559_62m_xl.jpg

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.

DSCF9737_74m_xl.jpg

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.

DSCF9603_46m_xl.jpg

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.

Grand Vestibule ∏ Louvre Abu Dhabi - Photography Marc Domage.jpg
DSCF9724_51m_xl.jpg

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

520 West 28th x Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid, the world's leading female architect, is making her mark on New York with a soft and shiny sculptural building in West Chelsea, Manhattan's hippest neighbourhood...

BY DEE IVA

Word has reached Fizz HQ that a new landmark will soon be gracing the skyline of New York City. The iconic Empire State, Chrysler and Flatiron buildings and the new World Trade Center will soon be joined by a fluid, organic residential structure designed by Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Zaha Hadid (right).

ABOVE: The high life meets The High Line at 520 West 28th Street

ABOVE FROM TOP: Corner bedrooms boast panoramic views across the city; Gaggenau appliances and a top-of-the-range Xila kitchen by Italian company Boffi bring hi-tech style to each apartment

Located on The High Line, 520 West 28th is a slinky and curvaceous addition to the Big Apple. Commissioned by Related Companies, Hadid’s distinctive architectural style brings a new design dialogue to the concrete jungle of Manhattan. The soft rounded corners and sweeping balconies that seem to wrap around 520’s exterior are in stark contrast to the more rectangular masculine aesthetic of the city.

Set over 11 floors, the 39 apartments within will feature ceiling heights of up to 11 feet, wide-plank white oak flooring, sleek Boffi kitchens designed by Hadid, integrated wardrobes and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city that never sleeps. In the triplex penthouses, Hadid has added a sinuous sculptural staircase between the three floors.

BELOW FROM TOP: A wide organic staircase designed by Hadid connects the floors in the three triplex penthouses; Alternating curved balconies wrap around the exterior

Of course, anyone wanting to live in West Chelsea’s glamorous new kid on the block is going to need deep pockets. Prices start at US$4,950,000 soaring to $50,000,000 for the largest penthouse. It’s a sign of the times as this part of Chelsea is now a thriving arts district with a clutch of upscale art galleries, shops and restaurants in the shadow of aerial park The High Line. The new Whitney Museum of American Art, designed by Renzo Piano, opened here in 2015 immediately sealing the area’s reputation as Manhattan’s hippest cultural hotspot. Due for completion in 2017, it looks like 520 is destined to become NYC’s most stylish and desirable place to live. We can but dream...
520w28.com

2015 Summer Architecture Commission – John Wardle Architects

Pretty in pink! Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria unveils a futuristic fuchsia pavilion for summer...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

With summer approaching in the southern hemisphere, it's the season for perky, pleasing alfresco pavilions. Luckily, Melbourne's John Wardle Architects (JWA) has channelled the zeitgeist, unveiling a soaring, nine-metre-high pink pavilion commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria today. Designed and made in Melbourne, the ephemeral space will host parties, live music performances, talks, workshops, children's activities and picnics over spring and summer, offering a theatrical centrepiece and shady retreat by day, and a striking glow by night.

Adorned with 1,350 hand-folded fuchsia-coloured blooms, the 2015 Summer Architecture Commission pavilion was inspired by the sweeping lines and airy form of the city's 1959-designed Sidney Myer Music Bowl ('an iconic Melbourne building that is an amazing, graceful, exuberant and incredibly innovative piece of civic design of that era', according to JWA). The new pavilion is intended to envelop visitors in rosy, kaleidoscopic pink light as they stand under the 18-metre-wide translucent canopy, formed from origami-like polypropylene (a sustainable, recyclable, eco-friendly material used in Australia's polymer bank notes).

Teaming a low-tech timber frame with a high-tech layer of precision-cut steel, it blends the handmade and the digital, with individually suspended 3D pink polypropylene elements creating its seductive skin. Its open-sided shape – lifting dramatically on high arches – suggests easy, breezy living, but behind the scenes smart 3D modelling and cutting-edge engineering and fabrication make the magic happen. 'Similar to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a high level of engineering sophistication and material specificity is integral to the design in order to delicately balance the duality of span and strength,' says John Wardle. 'We also asked ourselves could it be disassembled and reassembled? Could it provide for other uses?'

The pavilion is part of a new annual NGV project which sees emerging and established architects and designers invited to create a cutting-edge installation or temporary structure for the gallery, to display in the NGV International's Grollo Equiset Garden. So think pink and check it out...
ngv.vic.gov.au

The 2015 Summer Architecture Commission: John Wardle Architects is at the NGV International, Melbourne, from 24 September 2015 to 1 May 2016. Open daily 10am-5pm, free entry.

Ilse Crawford's dreamy Hong Kong den

Comfy, chilled and oh so chic – the elegant upstairs lounge bar at Duddell's

Comfy, chilled and oh so chic – the elegant upstairs lounge bar at Duddell's

Ilse Crawford’s design for Duddell’s has helped put this arty Hong Kong watering-hole on the map…

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Absolutely marblelous... walls, stairs, floors and reception desk are encased in sleek travertine

Buzzy, tropical-modern metropolis Hong Kong is one of Asia’s premier playgrounds, but what’s been missing for a while in this mall-mad city are culture-smart hangouts. Well, not any more…

Word is spreading among Hong Kong’s art set about chic salon Duddell’s, a two-floor gallery space, restaurant and bar starring interiors by London-based designer Ilse Crawford. The Central location is hard to beat, atop fashion label Shanghai Tang’s gorgeous, flagship store. The food is a wow, with authentic Cantonese cuisine (care of chef Siu Hin Chi), vintage cocktails and a canny edit of classic old-world wines. Rotating exhibitions, curated by artists such as Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, and screenings keep the conversation flowing, while the lush garden terrace beckons for alfresco socialising.

Combining restrained elegance and laid-back comfort, Studioilse's decor offers a nod to the colonial gentlemen’s clubs of old, but updated for a more casual, contemporary scene. Surfaces are ravishing, from the grainy travertine staircase to the calming grey paint on walls. Meet pals for lunch or dinner in the third-floor dining room, where yellow velvet banquettes, ceramic ‘Gooseberry’ pendant lights by the UK’s Hand & Eye Studio and delicate Studioilse screens create a convivial atmosphere. Then peruse artworks as you ascend to the bar.

At last May’s Art Basel, the upstairs chill-out lounge was a hub for culture vultures, sipping and supping on day-long dim sum. Modern Italian furniture lends an international feel – helped by the very-dare-you blue Le Corbusier sofa for Cassina in a hot-pink frame – without sacrificing Hong Kong’s roots. Another highlight is the plant-packed adjacent terrace, described by Crawford as ‘a jungle in the urban jungle.’ Yenn Wong, who co-founded Duddell's with fellow movers and shakers Alan Lo and Paolo Pong, puts it perfectly: ‘It’s like being in the home of an art collector who also happens to have a Michelin-starred Cantonese chef and an award-winning mixologist.’
duddell's.co

Plush leather chairs face yellow velvet banquettes in the airy third-floor dining room, lit by 'Gooseberry' pendants

Plush leather chairs face yellow velvet banquettes in the airy third-floor dining room, lit by 'Gooseberry' pendants

It's a jungle out there... The green and serene rooftop garden terrace

It's a jungle out there... The green and serene rooftop garden terrace