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Louvre: Balance between beauty and function

“People do not resist thermal shock well. Nor do works of art. Such elementary observations have influenced the Louvre Abu Dhabi,” says architect, Jean Nouvel

| | Feb 17, 2018 | 6:01 pm
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Jean Nouvel

As the first structure of its kind in the Arab world, Louvre Abu Dhabi had to strike the balance between function and beauty. While its aesthetic features are of great importance, the museum needed to have the proper facilities to house priceless works of art as well as ensure the comfort of visitors, especially in the context of the region’s high-ambient temperatures. “The museum and the sea, all climates like exceptions,” said Pritzker Prize-winning French architect, Jean Nouvel on his concept for Louvre Abu Dhabi. “Warmer when it is cold. Cooler in the tropics. People do not resist thermal shock well. Nor do works of art. Such elementary observations have influenced the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It wishes to create a welcoming world serenely combining light and shadow, reflection and calm.”

Nouvel said that the project is founded on a major symbol of Arab architecture, which is the dome. In the context of the museum and given its shift away from tradition, Nouvel described the dome as a modern proposal. “A double dome, 180 metres in diameter, offers horizontal, perfectly radiating geometry,” he said. “A randomly perforated woven material provides shade punctuated by bursts of sun. The dome gleams in the Abu Dhabi sunshine. At night, this protected landscape is an oasis of light under a starry dome.”

According to an official statement from CCC (Claudine Colin Communication), the dome is made of eight different layers – four outer layers clad in stainless steel and four inner layers clad in aluminium separated by a steel frame, five metres high. The frame is made of 10,000 structural components pre-assembled into 85 super-sized elements, each weighing up to 50 tonnes.

The museum galleries were specially designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel. CCC shared that the floors, walls and ceiling surfaces of the museum galleries reinforce the palatial dimensions of Louvre Abu Dhabi. CCC shared that the floor paving is made of stone modules framed in bronze and that throughout the galleries, the choice of stone responds to the period of the artworks on show.

CCC added that filtered natural light can be present in all the galleries, either from lateral windows with views onto the surrounding environment or through zenithal lighting. This involved the use of glass mirrors to capture sunlight and direct it into the gallery spaces while also scattering rays to avoid glare.

The museum galleries were also developed to meet stringent environmental control requirements. CCC said that the design team developed a system, which cannot deviate by more than one degree from 21 degrees centigrade or five per cent humidity range. According to CCC, this guarantees exceptionally stable environmental conditions for artworks and visitors. Fire detection and suppression systems within the galleries require special measures in order to avoid damage to the artwork.

Touching on the environmental features of the structure, CCC said the dome primarily acts as a shading canopy and protects the buildings and outdoor plaza from the heat of the sun, greatly improving comfort for visitors and reducing building energy consumption. This strategy, CCC said, allows visitors to circulate outdoors in a self-regulated micro-climate.

Additionally, CCC said, the museum features low-profile but effective passive energy systems, which naturally enhance the cooling of the buildings and optimise water usage. The design team has also employed passive design techniques to improve sheltered outside conditions. According to CCC, visitors arriving at the museum and moving under the dome experience a gradual transition from an uncontrolled outside environment to a controlled inside environment.

According to CCC, Abu Dhabi Louvre also features passive design techniques that use the natural form of buildings and inherent properties of materials to improve climatic conditions. These techniques include the solar shading effect of dome roof and self-shading of buildings, optimised roof perforations to allow daylight without excess solar gain, exposed thermal mass, such as stone floor and cladding that can benefit from night time cooling and light-coloured and reflective materials.

Other modern environmental technologies Abu Dhabi Louvre offers include highly insulated and air-tight building envelope. CCC said the Louvre offers highly efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and sanitary fittings, all of which promise 42% reduction in solar gain, 27.2% reduction in energy use and 27% reduction in water use. The museum has also installed energy and water metering, which ensure resource efficiency. Louvre Abu Dhabi has achieved a 3 Pearl Estidama Design Rating and is targeting a LEED-Silver rating.


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