A magic carpet designed by Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini

The new department of Islamic art at the Louvre

by Malcolm Clark
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The new Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre, designed by architects Rudy Ricciotti from France and Italian Mario Bellini, is almost ready for the official opening. The project which won the international competition in 2005, represents the most significant intervention inside the museum since Ieoh Ming Pei's great pyramid almost 25 years ago.

An iridescent cloud drifting over the 16th century courtyard, a steel and glass structure protected by a perforated geometric mesh to filter the light as in the best Islamic tradition. The glimmering roof is gentle on the eye and means that the underground space can be exploited, like the Pyramid, with two floors of exhibition space in which the natural “tamed” light and the artificial light blend together.

The Visconti Courtyard was the last one remaining free in the building and to fill it with architecture would have meant doing without the natural lighting for the rooms overlooking it forever. Then, in the evening the golden light filtering from the new pavilion enters the museum through the windows overlooking the courtyard, bringing with it some of that wondrous and timeless orientalism.

From a technical viewpoint the biggest challenge was to support the complex structure with just 8 very slim pillars, so that the underlying structure was constrained as little as possible. The 4,600 square metres of new space will house around 4,000 of the 18,000 works of art in the collection. In the next few months the installation for the official opening, planned for the summer, will be completed. Inshallah.

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    The New Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre 190

    The New Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre

    Paris / France / 2012