The Louvre's New Islamic Art Pavilion Shines Under a Canopy of Golden Glass

Sep 21, 2012, 3:24 PM EDT
© M. Bellini - R. Ricciotti / Musée du Louvre, © 2012 Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin

PARIS — It’s certainly impressive, this golden glass pavilion that has spread over the Louvre’s Visconti courtyard like a giant sand dune. Architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti have found various metaphors for their new Islamic Arts pavilion, which opens to the public tomorrow: a dragonfly’s wing, a magic carpet, or a veil. The canopy is made of 2,350 triangles supported by 8,000 ultra-light tubes. Open at the sides, the structure gives an impression of airiness, but actually weighs almost 150 tons, and is supported only by 8 slanted pillars, each measuring 12 inches in diameter.

With a surface area of 50,000 square feet, the new pavilion cost €98 million ($127 million) and took four years to build. The construction team dug 39.5 feet below ground, while the architects waited with bated breath to make sure that the museum's façade didn’t collapse from the vibrations. It hasn’t been just an architectural challenge, but also a museographical one, since the pavilion of Islamic Arts covers ground from Syria to Spain to India, spanning more 12 centuries, and including the Andalusian, Ottoman, Persian, and Mameluk cultures.