Twenty-four years after the inauguration of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, the Musée du Louvre will introduce its second piece of contemporary architecture to the public, tomorrow, on September 22. The new Department of Islamic Arts is designed by Milanese architect Mario Bellini and his French colleague Rudy Ricciotti, who won the commission through an international competition in 2005. Similar to I.M. Pei, the pair created a naturally lit, subterranean gallery space beneath an undulating, glass roof within the courtyard of the historic Cour Visconti. Continue after the break to learn more.
Excavated to a depth of 12 meters (40 feet), the 2,800 square meter (over 30,000 square foot) open-plan gallery will become the new home of the Louvre’s prestigious collection of Islamic Arts. The gallery’s lower level and long sculptural stairway are comprised of a special black waxed concrete, providing a stark contrast to the seemingly floating glass roof and the nearly invisible glass perimeter walls. One of the major challenges of the design was to create a contemporary addition that could respectfully coexist with the surrounding facades of the existing, 18th century Cour Visconti. Bellini describes, “The solution was a foulard that undulates as if suspended in space by the wind, almost touching the ground of the courtyard at one point, but without totally encumbering it or contaminating the historic facades.” He further argues, “Obviously, no references to flying carpets, Islamic veils or musciarabia: simply a deep respect for the Islamic collection, combined with a personal knowledge (gained during the course of numerous journeys) of its geographical and cultural context.”
The “enormous veil” is constructed of a free-form lattice of 8,000 steel tubes and insulating double glazing, cloaked in gold and silver aluminum mesh. Triangular polished aluminum honeycomb panels are also integrated into the floating structure to refract the external images and diffuse daylight. The roof weighs a total of 120 tons with a thickness ranging from 20 centimeters to 1.50 meters and a maximum height of 8 meters. It is supported by eight “light” and “slightly inclined” pillars that accentuate a sense of lightness. Click on the image to take a 3d tour:
Learn more at the Louvre’s official website.