The Louvre Abu Dhabi does not reflect a traditional Arab city, writes Palestinian architect Rasem Badran

Following a recent trip to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, renowned Palestinian-Jordanian architect Rasem Badran wrote in a Facebook post that the museum’s architecture does not reflect the “traditional architectural texture of Arab cities.”

“[It is] an attractive outside space in midday [with the] projection of sun rays, while the interior is a boring failure and does not reflect Arabic streets,” Badran wrote of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“It is a typical misreading [by] the west [of] oriental civilisation. Even the exterior space does not reflect the dynamism of the open spaces in the traditional architectural texture of Arab cities. [It is] a contemporary space that has lost its soul.”

The museum complex, which is located in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island, is made up of 55 white volumes. These volumes are distributed amid what is meant to be a mini-city, or medina, surrounded by water and is entirely covered by a geometric dome that spans 180 metres.

During a tour of the ‘museum city’ with architect Jean Nouvel, the architect explained to designMENA that the force of the sun acts as a projector that travels around the dome, while the sun rays penetrate the gaps in the architecture, like lace.

The white blocks house the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, while the shaded, semi-outdoor areas of the ‘museum city’ display specially commissioned installations.

Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi. Photo by Grace Guino / ITP Images


Badran has long been considered a pioneer of modern Islamic architecture. The recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 for the Great Mosque of Riyadh, Badran has spent a large part of his career designing urban-scale developments and private residences across Saudi Arabia, as well as private projects for government authorities in other parts of the GCC.

His office, Dar Al Omran, has three branches spanning the Middle East, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to the UAE.

designMENA has reached out to Badran for comment. 

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One Response to The Louvre Abu Dhabi does not reflect a traditional Arab city, writes Palestinian architect Rasem Badran

  1. Prof.. Krishna P. Bhattacharjee says:

    Having visited Louvre Abu Dhabi in December 2017, I find the observations of architect Rasem Badran revealing on the interpretation of Arab city architecture.
    To me the museum complex is re-interpretation of Arab city design in the context of thrust of modern architecture towards green & sustainable architecture. The French architect Jean Nouvel has tempered down the blazing sun of Abu Dhabi by the large latticed dome ( an interpretation of Arabian Mosque dome) under whch the museum gallery modules ( resembling building blocks in a city) are located; the ceiling of the individual galleries are intricate design of local architecture.
    The architect has brought sea water within the museum city in an attempt to integrate the complex with the surrounding sea and to temper-down the heat absorption by the built-up structure; water’s sculptural forms playing against the building structures’ lower level provides relaxation to the visitors who were found to sit on the steps around the water body.
    However,the space interconnecting the galleries/ module units could have been made exciting resembling the streets in Arabian cites avoiding the boredom that a visitor experinces while going from on gallery to another.
    Professor Krishna P.Bhattacharjee, Architect, Alumni UC Berkeley; his design project ‘Office & Residence building in Calcutta, India’ was nominated for Aga Khan Award in Architecture.He also received “Good Practice” Citation from the UN-HABITAT Duaai International Award for Best Practices in 2009. Member,Country Representative, World Architecture Community.

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