Department Of Islamic Arts
The architects Rudy Ricciotti & Mario Bellini have designed the new wing dedicated to Islamic art at the Louvre Museum.
The creation of a new wing dedicated to Islamic art represents a decisive phase in the architectural history of the Louvre and in the development of the museum.
Set against the backdrop of the restored Cour Visconti, one of the palace’s most ornate interior courtyards, the new Department of Islamic Art offers a expansive window into the extraordinarily rich and diverse artistic heritage of the Islamic world.
The creation and integration of this new wing raised considerable architectural challenges at a site of such immense historical importance. To meet these challenges, the architects have achieved a subtle and elegant balance between the seventeenth-century courtyard’s neoclassical facades and the need for a contemporary yet universal homage to Islamic art by way of an undulating glass roof enclosing the galleries, which discreetly allows diffused natural light to fill the exhibition spaces.
|It is not a building in the traditional sense of the word, nor is it a mere “cover” for the courtyard. It’s more like an enormous veil that undulates as if suspended in the wind, almost touching the ground of the courtyard at one point, but without totally encumbering it or contaminating the historic facades.|
The luminous veil is formed of three layers: a system of glass panels, making the structure impervious to water, and two metallic mesh sheets fitted above and below the system of glass panels, bathing the entire roof in a bright and translucent anodized gold color.
The exterior mesh filters daylight and the interior mesh serves as the ceiling for the galleries. The interior mesh is also lined with a honeycomb panel that, without limiting the amount of natural light getting through, restricts side views while favoring direct views of the outside, thus creating the play of contrasts characterizing the structure.
The entire edifice, a symphony of glass and metal, extends beneath the Cour Visconti’s existing facades to create two sub-levels in addition to the courtyard level, one of which displays objects that are highly sensitive to light, while the other houses technical facilities.
The roof is supported by eight light pillars, not vertical but slightly inclined relative to each other to accentuate the sense of lightness.
On the ground floor of the new galleries, vertical partitions made of transparent glass allow visitors to look out on the courtyard’s facades. The brass-speckled black floor tiles echo the chromatic marriage between the golden tones of the glass roof and the black-colored self-compacting concrete of the walls.
“Under the grand cloak of the roof the space has been kept unitary, fluid and dynamic. A number of “openings” in the courtyard paving open the view of the roof and the perception of natural light to the floor below, giving the entire exhibition space an involving sense of integrity.”
The new department will cover the entire cultural reach of the Islamic world, from Spain to India, and will span its full chronological range, from the seventh to the nineteenth century. These works, many of which will be on public view for the first time, have also been the focus of a comprehensive and prodigious restoration plan.
Throughout the eight hundred years of its history, the Louvre palace has repeatedly attracted each period’s most talented and influential innovators in the field of architecture.
The design and installation of these new galleries is the museum’s single largest expansion project since I. M. Pei created the now-famous Pyramid twenty years ago.