Jean Nouvel: The man behind Abu Dhabi's newest cultural monument

Published 14th November 2017
Jean Nouvel: The man behind Abu Dhabi's newest cultural monument
In a city full of skyscrapers, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a striking addition. Built on its own man-made island, the museum's centerpiece dome -- 180 meters wide and weighing almost as much as the Eiffel Tower -- is visible for miles.
The man behind this architectural marvel is Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel, who first visited the island in 2005.
"When I arrived, that was a desert island. That was only sand, the sea, and the sky. And I wanted to create a museum belonging to this civilization. Belonging to this country. Belonging to geography," he explained.
Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior.
Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior. Credit: Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji
Nouvel has spent much of his high profile career exploring the intersection of local culture and Western modernism, as well as displaying a penchant for monuments to culture.
This is seen in buildings like the Arab World Institute in Paris, the Philharmonic concert hall in Copenhagen, Lucerne Cultural and Congress Center and the National Museum of Qatar.
Speaking on Nouvel's oeuvre architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff commented, "I think that for the Middle East in particular, he's shown that he has a really intuitive feel for the culture and its complexities that's very thoughtful and reflective even though, of course, there are always issues about being a Westerner working in another culture. I think it's that sensitivity that's made him a very important architect."
National Museum of Qatar
For the Louvre Abu Dhabi he was inspired by the domes and geometrical patterns so common in Islamic architecture, and also by the city itself.
"Abu Dhabi is a very powerful city now, with a strong economy. And like in every epoch in architecture, when a city in this situation, or a country in this situation, they build testimonies of this growing epoch," he said.
This story forms part of an extended series exploring the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.