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

Christmas at The London EDITION

Forget tinsel. Mark Colle's couture Christmas tree at The London EDITION hotel is the chicest in town...

BY DEE IVA

If you’re looking for ideas for an alternative Christmas tree just step into the lobby of The London EDITION hotel, Ian Schrager's distinguished pleasure palace just off Oxford Street. Reaching nearly seven metres high, the EDITION’s take on the traditional tree has been given a modern twist by Belgian super-florist Mark Colle

It was Colle who provided dramatic vertical walls of flora and fauna for Raf Simons' first haute couture show for Christian Dior. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Dior & I’ you’ll have been blown away by the sheer spectacle he brought to Simons' show, creating a striking backdrop for the Dior Spring Summer 2012 collection.

ABOVE RIGHT: Florist to the stars, Mark Colle
BELOW: Dior's Spring Summer 2012 haute couture show set against Colle's striking 'living walls' of flowers

At the London EDITION, Colle’s approach is much more understated but equally beautiful. Instead of the usual decorations and baubles, Colle has mixed exotic flowers with green moss, ivy and holly, and added them to a traditional fir to create an elegant and verdant statement.

ABOVE: Exotic Anthurium flowers, holly and ivy are interspersed between branches; Decked with white lights, Mark Colle's chic Christmas tree towers above the lobby of The London EDITION
BELOW: Berners Tavern, the in-house restaurant run by Jason Atherton

Also, if you’re thinking of staying in town over the Christmas period, the EDITION has a special offer that includes a guaranteed table in the oh-so-stylish Berners Tavern restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, £100 towards food and drinks and two complimentary cocktails. So deck the halls with boughs of holly!
editionhotels.com/london

The New York Edition

Say hello to The New York Edition, the new focal point for 24-hour party people in the city that never sleeps

BY DEE IVA

If there's one place that will always be associated with American hotelier Ian Schrager it's New York nightclub Studio 54. That legendary hedonistic hot spot of the late Seventies set the template for all the imitations that followed in its footsteps, breathing new life into the stagnant club scene. By the time Schrager sold 54 in 1981 the new club culture of the Eighties was taking hold but it owed him a huge debt.

Studio 54's 'dare to be different' attitude has informed each of Schrager's groundbreaking hotels. The Delano in Miami, the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, St Martins Lane in London and Public Chicago are just a few of Schrager's pleasure palaces that have hosted and entertained guests from all over the world who want to check in and freak out together.

But now there's a new place to see and be seen. Situated on Madison Avenue, The New York Edition is the latest launch from the EDITION hotel group, a brand conceived by Schrager in cahoots with Marriott International. It joins earlier offerings in London, Istanbul and Miami Beach, with future crash pads planned from Bangkok to Bali. The days of Bianca Jagger riding in on a white horse may be over, but The NYE is a great place to let your hair down in style. Inspired by the elegant mansions of Fifth Avenue, it has uptown funk without being uptight. 

The pared back guest rooms feature a relaxed neutral colour scheme with pale oak floors, dark oak panelling, marble bathrooms with enclosed rain showers and masses of light. Many rooms have sculptural vaulted ceilings and the penthouse suite channels Mad Men with sultry oak panelling throughout, classic mid-century modern furniture and a private roof terrace.

These calming retreats are in stark contrast to The Clocktower, the Edition's impressive restaurant (above) opened by Michelin-starred Brit talent Jason Atherton, whose modern brasserie-style menu mixes classic English fare (black pudding, anyone?) with American, European and North African recipes. The eatery's name hails from the historic 41-storey clock tower the hotel occupies, built in 1909 as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (aka Met Life Tower). Atherton's first stateside venture is a series of three colour-coded interconnecting salons featuring high ornate ceilings, dark herringbone floors, modern chandeliers by Frenchman Eric Schmitt and walls adorned with photographs of New York icons and street scenes. A gold-leafed bar and a separate billiard room with purple felted table and purple chandelier complete what is fast becoming known as Midtown's hippest hang out. You could imagine Carrie and the rest of the Sex and the City crew rocking up and downing Cosmopolitans till the sun sets. If you're looking for grown-up glamour with understated style in the heart of the Big Apple, this is your playground.
editionhotels.com/new-york

The New York Edition, 5 Madison Avenue, New York, NY, USA. Rooms from US$675 a night.

Pictures by Elliott Kaufman ekaufman.com; Nikolas Koenig nikolaskoenig.com; Nick Solares nicksolares.photoshelter.com 

Wonderland: The Fat Duck Down Under

When Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck waddled down under foodies were aflutter. The Fizz just wanted to know what interiors the wacky wizard would serve up...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

It was the talk of the southern hemisphere. When news broke that culinary Willy Wonka Heston Blumenthal was bringing his megahit British restaurant The Fat Duck – and its entire staff – from Bray to Melbourne’s Crown this February for a six-month stint, foodies were beside themselves. The UK restaurant was being refurbished, hence its Australian ‘holiday’. More than 250,000 fans across the Asia-Pacific vied in a ballot for coveted golden tickets; 14,000 got lucky.

Naturally, the 15-course, four-and-a-half-hour tasting menu at The Fat Duck Melbourne is the stuff of magic (for AU$525 a head, minus the booze bill, you’d expect bangs and whistles). But does the look of the space give the courses on the plate a run for their money? Despite the mainstream location (the Crown complex sports a garish casino alongside A-List eateries), local design studio Bates Smart and London innovation agency Seymourpowell dished up enough theatre to satisfy our appetite. Here are our tasty style highlights…

Entrée
Like disappearing down a rabbit hole, guests enter the third-floor space to discover a world of typically Heston whimsy and surprise. A long, sultry tunnel beckons at the entry, illuminated at the end by what looks like a tiny door, yet turns out to be a flickering screen showing chefs at work behind the scenes. The sloping ramp creates the optical illusion of guests becoming larger, as the corridor gets smaller. A huge black glass sliding door then opens to reveal a sexily lit, dark-walled dining room, playing on chiaroscuro – bold contrasts between light and darkness.

Main course
Seating 50, the chic yet restrained dining room boasts spot-lit white leather booths, crisp-clothed tables, purple velvet chairs, plush carpet and inky lacquered panelling. Tables for two overlook the Yarra River, with wow-worthy views through angled floor-to-ceiling windows. The footprint is much bigger than Bray, with more kitchen fire power. Despite being a temporary pop-up, its ‘opulent but calm and relaxed’ feel was a hit with Heston, who also reckoned the lighting (by Melbourne firm Electrolight) was the best he’d seen in a restaurant.

TOP: The giant interactive jigsaw, starring culinary superhero Heston
ABOVE RIGHT: Mr B beside the wacky wall-mounted fob watch
BELOW FROM LEFT: Signature Duck dishes: Jelly of Quail, Marron Cream with oak moss; Mad Hatter's Tea Party with mock turtle soup; multi-sensory Sound of the Sea

Amuse-bouche
A surreal, Daliesque golden fob watch mounted on the wall counts down the days until the last of the 280 services on 15 August 2015, before the hands freeze and the Fat Duck flies home. It also tells you the time in Bray and Melbourne, and will return to Bray as a souvenir. Its inspiration was the Mad Hatter’s fob watch, which connects with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party dish on the menu (diners dip an edible fob watch into the mock turtle soup to mimic Lewis Carroll’s famous story).

Dessert
A giant, eight by two metre interactive jigsaw takes pride of place on the main wall, bearing an image of a caped Heston in galaxy-print trousers, looking for all the world like a North Korean propaganda hero. In a playful touch, all diners receive a piece of the jigsaw to add to the picture, which will only be completed by the last guest. At 19,500 pieces it could be the world’s biggest jigsaw, according to Heston, who maintains it wasn’t his idea to take such a starring role!

Palate cleanser
We love the flock of clear glass terrariums, filled with sculptural, spidery-shaped plants, which line the glossy, black window ledge. A mix of bell jars, bendy tubes, bottles and squatter vessels in various sizes, they’re a stylist’s dream. Running the length of the room, the laboratory-chic urban garden affords peek-a-boo vistas of Melbourne's cityscape. Glass pieces and other art works are also on loan from David Walsh, owner of Hobart’s dramatic MONA (Museum of Old and New Art).

ABOVE: Terrariums on the window ledge reveal curious, alien vegetation
BELOW: Elegant yet theatrical, interiors play on bold contrasts of light and dark

Digestif? Following the return of The Fat Duck to Bray in late September, Dinner By Heston Blumenthal will take up permanent residence at the Crown Melbourne – inspired by the London original, and the only Heston restaurant outside the UK. Reservations aren’t yet open, but expect to form a disorderly queue…
thefatduckmelbourne.com

The Fat Duck, Level 3, Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne

Aman to that!

The new Aman Tokyo marks the first capital city launch for the luxe Asian hotel brand, and its debut Japanese getaway. We’re just loving the lobby…

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

When it comes to hotels, the Fizz is particularly partial to two things; a look-at-me lobby and the perfect pool. Luckily, new city retreat Aman Tokyo delivers on both fronts. Unveiled on 22 December, it’s a serene dream of a place, with sleek interiors by Aman regular Kerry Hill Architects. We’re talking tactile materials, contemporary simplicity and epic, urban views.

Set in upscale financial district Otemachi, Aman Tokyo perches, God-like, on the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower, offering 84 rooms and suites with panoramic vistas of the Imperial Palace Gardens. Design plays with natural light and shadow, drawing on a classic Japanese palette of camphor wood, washi paper and stone, teamed with modern technology.

TOP PICTURE: Tokyo skyline views from a Premier Room living area
BELOW: A lofty lantern-inspired feature tops the soaring lobby lounge; internal gardens add calm to the space

Lobby love
So back to that jaw-dropping lobby… The atrium’s centrepiece is a soaring architectural feature shaped like a 30-foot-high Japanese paper lantern. Rising six floors through the core of the building, it was crafted with layers of textured washi paper stretched over a shoji frame. Below, the hotel’s vast inner sanctum beckons, combining Ikebana branch and flower arrangements with a calming water feature and two rock gardens. Soothing timber and sheer stone floors and walls surround this oasis, creating a monumental mood.

Yet design takes its cue from Japan’s cosier residential structures, too, with the inner garden flanked by a veranda, or engawa, which leads to the dining and lounge areas. Traditionally a wooden space between the garden and living quarters in local homes, the concept is mirrored in the separation of sleeping and living zones in the hotel’s bedrooms.

BELOW: Zen-chic rules: pale wood and paper shoji screens in a Deluxe Room; the Aman Suite boasts a deep furo bath for stylish soaking

Bathing beauties
Naturally, bedrooms here are all huge, zen and Instagram-friendly (heck, some even boast pantries). But the real draw for us? Each features a large furo, a deep soaking tub that celebrates the Japanese ritual of bathing.

Pool pampering
Aman Tokyo’s seductive 30-metre indoor pool stretches across the skyline, with dreamy day-beds, steam rooms and Japanese hot baths for unwinding in style. It’s part of a two-floor wellness centre, which includes an Aman Spa with eight treatment rooms, a fitness centre, and yoga and Pilates studios.

ABOVE: Inviting loungers line the sleek, indoor swimming pool

Dining divas
Peckish? At ground-floor The Café by Aman, you can sample Mediterranean fare and seafood, with indoor/outdoor seating giving onto the Otemachi Forest. Signature still and sparkling sake is served from distinctive vats. In the main reception area, the Lounge by Aman offers casual snacking, afternoon tea and evening cocktails, with floor-to-ceiling windows for gazing at the Imperial Gardens and Mount Fuji. Alternatively, step it up at The Restaurant by Aman on level 33, a Med fine-diner which also whips up Japanese dishes. Don’t miss the glass-fronted, walk-in wine/sake cellar. Throw in a slightly un-PC Cigar Lounge and a very-PC Residents’ Library – lined with books on Japanese art and culture, and elegant artefacts – and this is one Tokyo stay that won’t be lost in translation.

ABOVE: Fine dining and stellar vistas at The Restaurant by Aman

Coastal cool to city slickers
Known for its luxurious yet intimate Asian resorts, the Aman group has always embodied minimal-chic design, immaculate service and magical locations. The brand’s 26 properties have generated a fiercely loyal following – aka Amanjunkies – of style-conscious jetsetters. Now, though, Aman fans can swap the beachlounger for the city-skyline bar, with a new generation of Aman hotels targeting cities such as New York, London, Paris and Singapore. Watch this space…
amantokyo.com

'Aman Tokyo', Otemachi, Tokyo, Japan. Until May 2015, introductory rates for double rooms start at £505 a night.