Musée du Louvre

Arts de l'Islam

Image © Andrea Jemolo

Paris, France

2012

The Louvre’s new wing devoted to the masterpieces of Islamic art echoes I.M. Pei’s Pyramid in stature and intent. It is housed in the 2 floors beneath the Cour Visconti near the Seine, where a sort of “treasure chest” was dug 12 meters into the ground and covered by a large, glittering glass veil that seemingly hovers over the courtyard.

The display cases

The Goppion display cases successfully combine strength, airtight seals, and absolute transparency. The low base contains advanced technology to control the microclimate and provide security. The display cases open completely by horizontal sliding translation, either breaking orthogonally at the center or diagonally across the top, enabling the curator literally to enter the case and arrange the objects without difficulty. Double slides allow both the glass half-boxes of the case and the inner portion to be moved independently. Once closed, the cases are extremely secure: it is impossible to get in without the right equipment, even if the lock is destroyed. The glass bonnet cases feature a sophisticated, hydraulic pantograph mechanism that lifts the entire bonnet, providing total access to the interior. Using large glass panes ensures unimpeded sight lines to the objects. The diagonally divided sliding translation display cases have opening joints along the top edge only, above eye level. The cases are masterpieces of engineering design applied to an exhibition context.

Freestanding vertical display cases, opened by manually operated, orthogonally divided sliding translation. The cases are anchored to a substructure set between the building’s floor and the floating floor. Interior display fittings consist of Silbonitcoated metal pedestals and panels. The interior display deck can slide left and right when the case is in the open position, making it easier to clean and arrange the objects.

Image © Andrea Jemolo

The architecture

The new construction is neither a building in the traditional sense of the word, nor is it a simple roof over the courtyard. As Mario Bellini eloquently noted, “It’s more like an enormous veil that undulates as if suspended in the wind, almost touching the ground of the courtyard at one point, but without totally encumbering or contaminating the historic façades.” The design and the materials used reflect what the designers describe as dialectical empathy: the new department stands alone yet those inside do not feel shut away, as they can see the façades of Cour Visconti around and the Paris sky above. The 2 realities are completely different, although they exist side by side, and each respects the other without trying to steal the limelight. The two cultures remain distinct and interact as equals.

Mario Bellini, Milan
Rudy Ricciotti, Paris

Image © Andrea Jemolo

Vertical glass bonnet display case, opened by pantograph lifting system. The case is anchored to a substructure set between the building’s floor and the floating floor, and rests on a Silbonit-coated metal base.

Image © Andrea Jemolo

The exhibition design

The exhibition space ranges over 2 floors. The layout itself continues uninterruptedly, governed only by pauses to admire the exhibits, to ponder, or just to rest as its designer Renaud Piérard intended. Dark colors predominate for the interiors: black for the floors and dark grey stone for the fittings. Goppion’s minimal display cases, airy and transparent, almost disappear in this non-space, focusing the viewer’s attention entirely on the brightly colored objects within them and the blend of ancient and modern architecture all around, which likewise merits admiration.

Renaud Pierard, Paris

Image © Andrea Jemolo

The exhibition space ranges over 2 floors. The layout itself continues uninterruptedly, governed only by pauses to admire the exhibits, to ponder, or just to rest as its designer Renaud Piérard intended.