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Louvre Abu Dhabi to open after years of delays

During a press tour on 7 November, Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, shared his recollections of the construction of the building over the last decade

Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is officially opening its doors to the public on 11 November after 10 years of construction challenges and delays.

The museum was initially scheduled to open in 2012 after breaking ground three years earlier within Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, the up-and-coming cultural district of the city.  

But the project has faced its fair share of setbacks, being delayed three times – first in 2015, then again to mid-2016 before finally being scheduled for a November 2017 opening date.

In 2013, construction of the main phase of the Louvre Abu Dhabi was awarded to an Arabtec-led joint venture that included Construction San Jose SA and Oger Abu Dhabi LLC, with the section completing a year later.

READ: Louvre Abu Dhabi official opening delayed for 2017

But the continued drop in oil prices has led to project setbacks due to budgetary constraints across the region, with construction on several major projects slowing down or pushed back.

During a press tour on 7 November, Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, shared his recollections of the construction of the building over the last decade.

“We had some pains and some pleasures in the project,” he said during a speech at the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“I remember in 2009 for the ground breaking ceremony we were a full delegation in the sand of Saadiyat Island and we were looking for the mathematical centre of the dome before it started.

“I remember when this whole place was filled with scaffolding and now the dome is floating above us,” he added.

Several milestones were achieved over the course of the last few years, with the iconic dome lifted into its final position in December 2014 and the water surrounding the building flooded last June.

Several officials instrumental to the development of the museum were also in attendance, including Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture & Tourism and the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) – the authority leading the project – as well as Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of musée du Louvre and chairman of the Scientific Board of Agence France-Muséums.


Jean Nouvel, the architect of Louvre Abu Dhabi, also shared his thoughts of the outcome of the museum's design and what he hopes it will achieve in the long-term.

 “On all architecture sites [problems arise] but the [realisation of the Louvre Abu Dhabi] has conformed to the agreement and objectives [laid out from the beginning].

“Architects have an idea and a conflict that we have to pass on from a dream to a reality.

“[Architects] need to make sure [this dream] does not deteriorate, so aside from a few details that will improve in the next couple of months, a contract we have with a company to make sure that everything is done right [will help guarantee this]. 

READ: MAB FM wins five-year Louvre Abu Dhabi contract

“Overall, it is very well done, but there are a few details of course,” he added.

On the greatest challenges faced during the museum’s construction, Nouvel told Construction Week: “From a technical aspect, it was the dome.

“When looking at it you’re supposed to feel like it’s floating, so in order to demonstrate this light weight [feel] this was the biggest challenge because it had a lot of parameters and a lot of contradicting parameters to consider.”

Nouvel was also asked about worker conditions during the project’s construction, a controversial topic that has plagued many developments across the region.

“My responsibility is to design the building…whether here or in France I am not responsible for the conditions [on site],” he said.

To date, Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired more than 600 artworks, exhibited alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French institutions.

The project was the result of a collaboration between Abu Dhabi and France that was approved in October 2007.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open alongside the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenhiem Abu Dhabi, Foster + Partners' Zayed National Museum, and a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid.

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Construction Week - Issue 750
Sep 30, 2019