Louvre Abu Dhabi on brink of emerging after five years of preparation

Almost five years after the original launch of Saadiyat Island as a global cultural centre, now is the time for Jean Nouvel's vision for the Louvre Abu Dhabi to become a reality.

And so it begins. Almost five years after the original launch of Saadiyat Island as a global cultural centre, now is the time for Jean Nouvel's vision for the Louvre Abu Dhabi to become a reality.
It is a vision of a city on a peninsula with its very own microclimate protected by the shade of a giant, overarching dome. Completion is scheduled for 2015.
The construction challenges are considerable. A 180-metre wide cupola supported at just four points around its perimeter will shade two-thirds of the museum campus.
Perforated to cast an intricate "rain of light" below, the dome will be made of more than 100,000 individual elements in 10 layers that will overlap to form a pattern inspired by Islamic geometry and the palm fronds of traditional arish dwellings.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be housed in 9,200 square metres of gallery space spread across almost 30 separate buildings.
Planned like a town, these range from one to three storeys in height and are linked by a network of gardens, plazas and watercourses inspired by traditional Arabian falaj.
The scope of the architecture and public areas may sound prodigious, but these pale in comparison to the design, engineering and infrastructure challenges that have been overcome to get the project to this stage.
The museum requires a 10-metre deep waterproof basement for emergency access and plant rooms that measure 31,500 square metres.
In 2009, walls were buried in the sand 40 metres deep to ensure the construction site stays watertight. Once works are complete, these will be removed to allow seawater to flow between the museum precincts in a series of canals.
In 2010 alone, contractors drove 4,536 piles into the ground - 2,958 steel and 1,578 concrete - the length of which, if put end to end, is the distance from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.
Most of this work has gone unnoticed. The only visible sign of progress thus far has been a curious, wedge-shaped chamber on Saadiyat in which a 1:33 scaled model of the museum's canopy, made of 15,000 aluminium and steel parts, has been light-tested to ensure its performance.
But behind the scenes an international team of architects and engineers has been working for almost five years, testing the dome for factors including its ability to cast the right type of shade, and its resistance to wind, explosions and fire.
Many of these tests used software developed by a company owned by Frank Gehry, the designer of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and has also been used in the design of the coming Cleveland Clinic Hospital Abu Dhabi on Al Maryah Island.
Most of the preparatory work associated with the Louvre Abu Dhabi is already complete. All that remains is the small matter of delivering the more tangible parts of what will be one of the early 21st century's most anticipated architectural projects.
Arabtec needs to start building. Fast.
nleech@thenational.ae

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding