The Louvre inaugurates a new architecture

Location: Paris
Designer: Mario Bellini e Rudy Ricciotti
Project: Dipartimento di Arti Islamiche al Louvre. Parigi/ Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre, Paris
Museum project and layout: Mario Bellini e Renaud Pierard
Completed: September 2012
Photos: Raffaele Cipolletta - Courtesy Mario Bellini Architects, Philippe Ruault – Courtesy Musée du Louvre, Mario Bellini Architect(s).
After twenty-three years since the pyramid designed by Ieoh Ming Pei was inaugurated, the Louvre has now also inaugurated the second and latest contemporary piece of architecture

the new Department of Islamic Art in the Court Visconti, designed by the Milan architect Mario Bellini in collaboration with his French colleague Rudy Ricciotti.
Seven years work, three of them on site, an additional 6,800 square meters for this French museum, 3,800 of which for exhibitions, which will host the precious collection of Islamic art, which until now had been exhibited in narrow and inadequate halls.
President François Hollande recently inaugurated the new architecture, which is not a traditional building, as the architect Bellini explains: “We were not inspired by any folklore references, just a strategic choice: it would have been much easier to create a new space by covering the Court Visconti with a classic glass roof, but that would have exposed the Islamic Art to an embarrassing promiscuity with the 17th century character of the Palace of the King of France. Therefore we decided for a throw that flutters as if it were suspended in space, until it almost touches the floor at one point, without ever occupying it or contaminating the historic façades”.
A delicate gesture that enhances the collection, holding is suspended in a dialogue of semi-transparency and light – but without any contradictory interference – with the 17th century Court Visconti, its façades and the Paris sky. The flexuous, almost textile, geometry of the roof is responded to by the continuity of the interiors with numerous large glass display cases.
The glass, which is held up by the large spatial reticular structure of welded steel tubes, set back with respect to the external perimeter, vertically seals the entire roofing with the court floor. Here the challenge was won to do this totally invisibly. Beneath the large covering mantle, the space is given unity with a fluid and dynamic route; there are a few “openings” in the court level which give a view of the roof and a perception of natural light, with an enveloping sense of integrity of the entire museum. “Obviously there are no references to flying carpets, Islamic veils or musciarabia – the architect Bellini continues – just a profound respect for the Islamic collection, combined with my personal knowledge of its geographic and cultural context (developed over a number of journeys)”.
The project goals were complex but have all been achieved:
- Maintain a sensation of lightness, suspension, of the roof levitating
- Control and moderate daylight without losing the open air atmosphere
- Study empathic/dialectic compatibility between the court and the new pavilion
- Join the new spaces for Islamic art with the normal itinerary to the Louvre without compromising its individuality.

The roof is formed of double triangular panels in gold and silver metal mesh, for approx. 1500 square meters, with a variable thickness between 20 cm and 1.5 meters, and weighs 120 tons. The maximum height of the roof of the floor is approx. 8 meters, and it is only held up by eight steel columns, which are not vertical but inclined in different directions to accentuate the effect of lightness.

Marzia Urettini
Acciaio Arte Architettura 52