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Work starts on Abu Dhabi Louvre

Design work is starting on the £160m Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, with construction due to start next summer

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which was born out of an inter-governmental collaboration agreement between Abu Dhabi and France last spring, will house exhibitions from the Louvre in Paris under a ten-year loaning agreement. The museum is provisionally budgeted at £160m (€200m) to design and build, pending completion of the current preliminary concept work and will house art ranging from Islamic and Asian collections to the European Masters and works of antiquity.

The design involves housing a 'museum city', resembling a traditional Arab city, under a domed canopy. The elegant shallow domed canopy will be 183 metres in diameter, supported on just five perimeter piers. The design of its outer cladding will allow for the sun to pass through, creating a play of light on the buildings and courtyards below.

Buro Happold has been appointed as multi-disciplinary engineer on the Louvre project, providing structural, building services, civil, marine, geotechnical, façade, fire, security, acoustic, lift and ICT engineering. The practice will work in conjunction with Paris-based architects Ateliers Jean Nouvel (AJN) and the French museums agency (Agence France Musées) for the Tourist Development & Investment Company (TDIC) of Abu Dhabi.

"We will work to the spirit of the American LEED green building rating system – while designing a building with high "wow" content in the tidal inshore zone of an island in the Arabian Gulf, which needs to withstand high ambient temperatures, airborne sand, humidity and salinity," said Buro Happold’s project director Tim Page.

"We also have to design for the building to withstand a dust-laden, highly saline and humid atmosphere. As diurnal temperatures rise and fall, the air alternately takes up moisture from the Gulf and then deposits it as dew. Airborne dust levels can also be extreme, especially during the occasional desert sand storms which occur in this part of the world."

The civil and marine engineers will face considerable challenges too, as the museum is designed to look as if it is floating on the sea – it will in fact be built on piles, founded at around 18 metres depth on rock in the tidal zone of the island’s western shoreline.

Construction is due to start on site late next summer with the museum to open to the public in 2012.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of four iconic buildings planned for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, which will also include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, a performing arts centre and a maritime museum. The Cultural District is in itself part of a 30-year development plan for the island, which will be linked to Abu Dhabi city by two major new bridges.

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