Architect: Jean Nouvel
Photos: Roland Halbe, Marc Domage, Mohamed Somji
Project year: 2019
Oasis of light in the Persian Gulf
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, in the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, is viewed as a bridge between eastern and western art. Since 2017, the universal museum of the United Arab Emirates has been exhibiting international works from different eras – from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary art. Even the building’s architecture, designed by the French star architect Jean Nouvel, is worth a visit. The lighting solution for its huge, circular dome and the entire area was produced by Zumtobel.
Jean Nouvel’s design for the Louvre Abu Dhabi has created an oasis of light in the Persian Gulf: The centrepiece of the building is the huge circular dome with a diameter of 180 meters. Standing on just four pillars, it appears to float. By day, sunlight filters through the decorative ceiling structure creating an enchanting effect reminiscent of the rays of sun in an oasis, as they fall through the fronds of the palm trees and create a natural pattern. When the sun has set, the Zumtobel lighting system traces the structure – reversing the incidence of light and shadow formation: The Zumtobel luminaires illuminate the building in an eye-catching manner, from the inside of the dome to the outside.
To do this, Zumtobel created CHROMOSOME, a customised lighting solution specially produced for the unique, huge dome. Four thousand of these luminaires were installed in the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It contains a special heat sink, to defy the hot temperatures of Abu Dhabi. Thanks to the fully transparent luminaire housing, part of the light escapes upwards. It is reflected by the ceiling and walls, thereby producing a pleasantly bright ambiance.
The appearance of daylight on-site, with a glow effect from afar
Different Lux values are used to achieve two different results: a glow effect when viewed from afar and, beneath the dome, pleasant lighting similar to daylight. The controllable, white luminaires allow different colour temperatures to be mixed. So, different effects can be achieved depending on the time of day or the atmosphere. This process works fully automatically thanks to the LUXMATE LITENET lighting management system. A sky scanner detects the natural daylight shining through the spectacular dome and adds artificial light as required.
Sensitive works of art, strictly controlled Lux values
The art galleries are located beneath the dome: 55 cuboid buildings arranged in the form of a Medina – a traditional Arabic old town. The lighting systems in the galleries meet particular requirements: Depending on how sensitive the works of art are, the Lux values within the galleries must be carefully controlled. The curators of the Louvre defined three sensitivity levels – works of art with a maximum lighting limit of 600,000 Lux, 150,000 Lux and 37,500 Lux per year. So, for example, works of art with an annual maximum lighting limit of 600,000 Lux may be exposed to a maximum of 125 Lux during operating hours, with this value being reduced accordingly for the other two categories. The lighting specialists from Dornbirn use different lighting solutions to meet the different requirements: LIGHT FIELDS, HELISSA, DIAMO, PANOS infinity and PERLUCE ensure effective presentation of the 620 exhibits over an area of a total of 6,400 square metres.
Intelligent lighting management
To ensure that the Lux values in the galleries are not exceeded, Zumtobel even uses two different lighting control concepts. On the one hand, an automatically controlled, daylight-dependent blind shields the light from outside in four different levels. On the other hand, special sensors are positioned directly next to the works of art. If isolated, stronger specks of sunlight fall on the works of art, sensors issue a warning – and therefore prevent the precise annual Lux values from being exceeded. “Thanks to daylight sensors, motion detectors and time control, we can safely preserve more than just valuable works of art,” said Davide Siciliano, Head of Complex Projects at Zumtobel. “LUXMATE LITENET also saves energy and costs.”
Diverse requirements, diverse luminaires
The wide range of Zumtobel lighting solutions used demonstrates just how varied and diverse the requirements in the Louvre Abu Dhabi project were: In the Museography Gallery, the lighting specialists installed the TECTON continuous-row luminaire as emergency lighting in the glass ceiling. External emergency lighting is provided by TUBILUX. In the corridors and technology rooms, moisture-proof luminaires are used. AERO II is used to illuminate offices and control rooms in the basement.
With its comprehensive solution for this complex project, Zumtobel has once again demonstrated its in-depth application expertise when it comes to art and culture: For it is only through Zumtobel’s high-profile lighting of the huge dome on Saadiyat Island that the Louvre Abu Dhabi has shifted to the centre of public interest.