The Department of Islamic Art is the newest department in the Musée du Louvre.
For this particularly complex project, the two architects want a “gentle” solution which will not attack the existing structures but interact with them without affecting their visibility and perception.
Competition winners Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti decided not to cover over the courtyard, but to leave it in view with the aid of a lightweight, semi-transparent, non-invasive structure.
The new spaces will be covered with an undulated, luminous roof following the exhibition route. Its light weight will ensure that the façades of the courtyard surrounding it will be visible from inside the new exhibition space.
This unusual floating veil will be lit up by night, while by day it will let sunlight into the surrounding area and even the underground level of the new museum.
The roof will be visible even from the lowest level thanks to a series of openings around the perimeter of the courtyard. The flooring on the lowest level will allude to the veil structure with a series of shards of golden glass, a back-and-forth play of light emphasising the relationship between inside and outside, between the visible and the unseen.
The ground floor, at the courtyard level, will house works of art from the seventh to tenth century; the underground level will contain works from the eleventh to nineteenth centuries including the museum’s prestigious collection of carpets.
The exhibition route starts out at the pyramid, leading to the veil of light which marks the entrance to the new Islamic Art Wing. Here a perfect circuit will start, accompanied by a continuous installation element which orients the visitor’s eyes and steps while also serving as a support for information on the works, plasma video screens and teaching models.
Great care has been take to filter daylight through the roof and treat it so that it will not dazzle visitors or affect the conservation of the artworks.
Ricciotti and Bellini’s project was chosen for its ability to establish a balance between contemporary intervention and the historical site destined to house it, and for the highly evocative veil of light.
Laura Della Badia