Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel

Louvre Abu Dhabi becomes the final purpose of an urban promenade, a garden on the coast, a cool haven, a shelter of light throughout the day and evening. Its aesthetic is consistent with its role as a sanctuary for the most precious works of art.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Louvre Abu Dhabi

Case Study of Louvre Abu Dhabi

  • Program: Permanent exhibition galleries, temporary exhibition galleries, children’s museum, auditorium, storage, conservation building, restoration workshops, public spaces, administration building, restaurant, café, boutique.
  • Area: Built-up area 97,000 m², All gallery spaces 8,600 m², Permanent galleries 6,400 m², Exhibitions 2,000 m², Children’s Museum 200 m², Auditorium 420 m² / 250 seats
  • Museum buildings: 55 individual buildings – total, 26 individual buildings – Permanent Galleries
  • External buildings façade: 3,900 panels (20m² average format) made of ultra-high performance fibre concrete (UHPC).
  • 7,850 unique stars
  • Eight layers of cladding
  • 180 metre diameter
  • 565 metre circumference
  • Seven metre width
  • 80 mm distance between layers
  • 85 super-sized elements weighing on average 50 tonnes
  • Highest external point: 40 metres above sea level, 36 metres above ground floor level.
  • Interior dome elevation: 29 metres above ground floor level.
  • Four permanent piers holding up the dome, 110 metres apart
  • Largest stars: 13 metre diameter, 3 tonnes
  • 7,500 tonnes in weight – almost as much as the Eiffel Tower
  • Dome steel structure: 5,200 tonnes
  • Inner and outer cladding, perimeter rim: 2,000 tonnes
  • Gratings, walkways, mesh and misc. items: 300 tonnes
  • 8% perforation of the dome
  • Two years’ total construction time
  • Up to 800 workers at a time
  • Construction contractors:  Joint venture between Arabtec Construction LLC, San Jose SA and Oger Abu Dhabi LLC awarded the project in January 2013.


Pritzker-prize winning designer Jean Nouvel sought influence for the concept of Louvre Abu Dhabi in classical Arabic architectural culture. Bringing contextual access to the place, Nouvel designed Louvre Abu Dhabi as a ‘museum city’ in the sea. Its different series of white buildings take influence from the medina and low-lying Arab settlements. In total, fifty-five individual buildings, including twenty-three galleries, make up this museum city. The façades of the buildings made up of three thousand nine hundred panels of ultra-high performance fibre concrete (UHPC).

Layout of building
Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
elevations and sections of the building

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Dome of Louvre Abu Dhabi

A large dome, one hundred eighty metres in diameter, shelters the majority of the museum city and is visible from the sea, the neighbouring areas and Abu Dhabi city. This dome created by the Austrian company Waagner Biro which specialize in steel structures. The dome consists of eight various layers: four outer layers clad in stainless steel and four inner layers clad in aluminium divided by a steel frame five metres high. The frame made of ten thousand structural components pre-assembled into eighty-five super-sized elements, each weighing up to fifty tonnes.

The dome’s complicated pattern is the result of a more studied geometric design. It involved a close partnership of combining the architectural design team at Ateliers Jean Nouvel and the structural engineers at BuroHappold Engineering. The reputation of the pattern is at different sizes and angles in the eight superimposed layers. Every ray of light must penetrate the eight layers before appearing then disappearing. As a result, it is a cinematic effect as the sun’s path proceeds throughout the day. At night, it develops 7,850 stars visible from both inside and out. That’s Called the ‘rain of light’, this effect has the subject of many models and mock-ups over the years and is one of the defining characteristics of the idea.

Construction details of the dome

About the Dome

The dome supported by only four permanent piers, each one hundred and ten metres apart. These are hidden within buildings to give the impression that the dome is floating. The interior dome height is twenty-nine metres from the ground floor to the underside of the cladding. The highest point of the dome is forty metres above sea level and 36 metres above ground floor level.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Construction details of the dome
The complex engineering concept made Louvre Abu Dhabi one of the most innovative and challenging museum projects to be built in recent times.

The museum design is a partnership between traditional design and modern construction methods. Also, the tranquil environment encourages visitors to enjoy the ever-changing connection between the sun and the dome and between the sea, buildings and land. The complex engineering concept made the museum one of the most innovative and challenging museum projects to built in recent times.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Play of light and shadow at the museum
light and shadow at the museum

The Design Development phases followed from 2007 to 2012 and the construction of the museum from 2013 to 2017.  Prior to the completion of the museum, the museum has already been the recipient of three international awards: winner of the ‘Project of the Future’ category of the Identity Design Award in 2015; the European Steel Design Award in 2017, received with Waagner Biro, the Louvre Abu Dhabi dome specialist, and winner of the ‘Most Prominent UAE Project’ category of the Identity Design Award in 2017.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
light and shadow at the museum

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Interior exhibition places of Louvre Abu Dhabi

The interior exhibition spaces, including museum galleries, temporary exhibition spaces and Children’s Museum, make up 8,600 square metres. However, the museum galleries combine approximately 6,400 square metres and showcase approximately 600 artworks. Also, the 2-stories-Children’s Museum completes the ensemble with approximately two hundred square metres specially laid out for the museum’s youngest visitors.

zoning of Louvre Abu Dhabi

Museum galleries

Specially designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the floors, walls and ceiling surfaces of the museum galleries the palatial dimensions of the building. However, the floor paving made of stone modules framed in bronze: throughout the galleries, the choice of stone reacts to the time of the artworks on show. The walls are providing hanging flexibility: all associate equipment may conceal within special wall slots.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Ai Weiwei, ‘Fountain of Light’
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 involves the use of mirrors to capture sunlight and direct it into the museum’s gallery spaces while also scattering rays to avoid glare. There are seventeen glass ceilings within the museum galleries. Everyone is made up of eighteen different types of glass panels. In total, there are over 25,000 separate pieces of glass. These glass ceilings include both natural and artificial lighting to provide an optimal lighting system for the artworks on display.

The display cases were also specially constructed by Meyvaert in Ghent, Belgium for Louvre Abu Dhabi. They include state-of-the-art materials and have been created to adapt flexibly to the rotation artworks on display.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Civilizations and Empires
Challenging modernity

To meet stringent environmental control requirements within the museum galleries, the design team developed a system that cannot deviate by more than one degree from twenty-one degrees centigrade or five percent humidity range. This ensures exceptionally stable environmental conditions for artworks and visitors. Fire detection and suppression systems within the galleries require superior measures in order to avoid damage to the artwork.

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Exterior Artwork Commissions at Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi has commissioned 2 internationally acclaimed artists to create artworks in connection with the iconic building. Also, Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer have worked closely with Louvre Abu Dhabi’s team and Jean Nouvel to develop sculptures and installations that reflect the universal stories of the museum. These are the 1st of a number of scheduled commissions for the building.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
Exterior at Louvre Abu Dhabi


Designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the restaurant is made up of modular compartments. However, the intricate internal design takes inspiration from Arabic patterns, which have been carved into Corian panels. The furniture, also designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, complements the light-filled interiors and panoramic views of the sea. 7 bespoke chandeliers, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and constructed by Mobilier national, hang over the seven VIP tables.

Louvre Abu Dhabi-Restaurant -Chandeliers Concept Design

Café at Louvre Abu Dhabi

Jean Nouvel’s design for the museum café is inspired by the Op Art (optical art) movement of the 1960s. From specific positions, the café seems entirely monochrome (white); from others, the café interior is full of colour, like an abstracted reflection of the local maritime environment and port opposite the museum. The floors, walls, ceilings and furniture have designed specifically for the site by the architect Jean Nouvel.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
chandelier designs
interior of Café at Louvre Abu Dhabi


Philippe Apeloig cooperated with Ateliers Jean Nouvel to design the signage of the museum. Text is in 3 languages, Arabic, English and French, and implemented in both Arabic and Roman script. Lebanese typographer Kristyan Sarkis created a bespoke Arabic typeface, Louvre Abu Dhabi Arabic, especially for the museum. This new typeface combines the classic Naskh style of Arabic calligraphy with Apeloig’s existing Colvert Arabic font. For the Roman alphabet texts, Apeloig chose Frutiger LT typeface due to its clarity and readability for signage. The design of the pictograms responds to the museum’s architecture, particularly the abstract shapes created by the ‘rain of light’ filtering through the dome’s eight layers. Each pictogram is a combination of several of these shapes, creating silhouettes and objects. He also contributed to designing the logotype.

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Environmental features of Louvre Abu Dhabi

The dome primarily acts as a shading canopy. Also, the dome protects the buildings and outdoor plaza from the heat of the sun, improves comfort for visitors and reduces building energy consumption. This strategy allows visitors to circulate outdoors in a self-regulated ‘micro-climate between the museum galleries, exhibitions, Children’s Museum, auditorium, open plaza, café and restaurant. Low-profile but effective passive energy systems 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. Visitors arriving at the museum and moving under the dome experience a gradual transition from an uncontrolled outside to a controlled inside environment.

Energy and water metering ensures resource efficiency, while leak detection flags any unintended water use. Also, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s design is targeting a LEED Silver rating and has achieved a 3 Pearl Estidama Design Rating.

Flooding at site

During the construction process, the museum had built within a dry dock. Construction of the dry dock began with the installation of a rock embankment, technically known as a revetment. This created a new, temporary coastline on the southwest corner of Saadiyat Island, which was then backfilled using sand pumped from the sea bed. Piles are then made from mixed-in-place concrete and inserted in an interlocking formation into the island’s bedrock. Together these hydraulic cut-off walls protect the structure from the sea. The process of flooding the site was carried out in four carefully controlled stages and took approximately eight weeks to complete.

Waterproofing at Louvre Abu Dhabi

The underside of the basement structure extends up to 15 metres below sea level. Moreover, waterproofing was a major design consideration. BuroHappold’s structural engineers designed a watertight concrete box structure surrounded by a double layer of re-injectable waterproof membrane. Further protection against corrosion of the embedded reinforcement is provided by an impressed current cathodic protection system.

Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel
view of Louvre Abu Dhabi

Wave Breaking and Strom Proofing

During the design process, BuroHappold’s marine engineers carried out extensive hydrological studies in collaboration with the wave simulation laboratories at Wallingford in the UK. In addition, Louvre Abu Dhabi is protected from the open sea by a number of breakwaters, the designs for which were based on the Wallingford studies and which were constructed as part of the marine works sub-contract. Approximately 280 ­marine piles as well as concrete breakwaters, tidal pools and a specially ­designed ‘wearing wall’ system protect the museum from the effects of maritime traffic, the Gulf’s weather and any threats from the sea.

View of Louvre Abu Dhabi

However, the museum’s wearing wall made from precast units of ultra-high-performance concrete. Also, each unit is four metres high and weighs about 10 tonnes. The special concrete material protects the museum from the effects of waves and enables the units to resist outward bending forces. This is a key consideration during a ­receding tide when rapidly falling water pressure can create a suction-like ­effect on the museum’s cladding. The pedestrian plaza is located four metres above mean sea level. It is equipped with closed balustrades to protect visitors from wave action during severe storms.

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