Louvre Abu Dhabi: The Story of an Architectural Project
Jean Nouvel, Olivier Boissière
Skira Paris, May 2019
Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 128 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-2370740816 | $34.95
Louvre Abu Dhabi is a comprehensive exploration of Jean Nouvel’s (born 1945) latest masterpiece, from the first sketches and through each phase of its conception and construction. From its majestic, novel dome to its exhibition halls, this book walks the reader through this architectural jewel.
The first page of this monograph on Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened to the public in November 2017, is a tribute to Olivier Boissière, who wrote many books on Nouvel’s architecture, including one of Birkhäuser’s Studio Paperbacks. “Olivier Boissière wrote all of his life,” Nouvel writes. “Books of art and architectural critique, a novel and some articles distinguished by common sense, pertinence and impertinence … As attested by this, his last written work …” Although I don’t know when Boissière, who was born in 1939, died, nor can I find mention of his passing online (as of today, his Wikipedia entry is in the present tense), it makes sense that Nouvel’s longtime collaborator would write about one of his most amazing projects: Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum with a massive, double-layered filigreed dome shading a plaza, a series of boxy galleries, and in-between spaces. While the book provides plenty of insight into the project, particularly the layout and articulation of the galleries and other enclosed spaces, ultimately it is an overly praiseworthy celebration of the design — more a work of promotion than architectural critique.
The book moves from the inception of the project, complete with Nouvel’s early sketch of “the dome and its microclimate,” to its realization. Yet with a publication date of early 2019 and an opening of late 2017, I don’t understand why there are so many renderings and so few photos of the completed building. The photos I’ve seen, with rays of light streaming in through the filigreed “parasol,” are as stunning as the renderings, making the deficit of photos perplexing. Furthermore, although the book goes into some detail on parts of the project not discussed much elsewhere (restaurant, children’s museum, VIP area, site-specific artworks), these pieces are not keyed to the plans, making it hard for readers to get their bearings in a highly complex layout. Another questionable piece is the conclusion, described as (no joke) a “recapitulation in the form of evocation-accumulation presented in a deliberately random order.” It’s basically eight pages of low-resolution thumbnails of the images that came in the preceding pages (and some that didn’t), here accompanied by such non-revealing filenames as “DSC03448.jpg” and “G14-2.jpg.” Though I haven’t seen it in person, I’m inclined to recommend GA Document 145 over this book for people who want a stronger focus on architecture and more photos of the completed Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Olivier Boissière was a French writer and art critic of contemporary architecture. His articles and interviews were published in international magazines such as Domus, Abitare, L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui and Vogue France. Boissière was the author of several books on renowned architects and designers: Le Corbusier, Frank Gehry Jean Nouvel, Ron Arad et Philippe Starck.