Louvre Abu Dhabi opens to the public on November 11

Inspired by sunlight filtering through palm tree leaves in a Middle Eastern oasis, Jean Nouvel wanted to create a 'Rain of Light' for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This effect was to be applied in the outdoor plaza under a large perforated dome.

To ensure visibility of the 'Rain of Light', a detailed understanding of the physical principles that cause crepuscular rays was necessary. Contrast and visibility, dust and twilight, divergence of sunlight, minimum size of openings in the dome, and reflections of light under and at the edge of the dome had to be considered. Some aspects of this light effect, such as geometry and material reflectivity, could be checked with a scaled model. Dust and humidity, which are essential for good visibility of the rain of light and are characteristic of Abu Dhabi’s location, could not be scaled. A special calibration based on a partial 1:1 model was necessary to define the amount of artificial fog which represented dust and humidity in the scaled model.

From all these studies, we provided recommendations on location, size and ratio of dome perforations and on reflectivity of dome surfaces proved on-site tests in Abu Dhabi with a mock-up scale 1:1.

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Photo: Roland Halbe Photography