Zumthobel: Louvre | Abu Dhabi

Zumthobel: Louvre | Abu Dhabi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Saadiyat Island cultural district is a universal museum of the Arab world, forming a compelling artistic connection between Eastern and Western art. For this purpose, works from all over the world will be showcased there – from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary highlights. Yet the architecture itself also represents a spectacular masterpiece, for which French star architect Jean Nouvel has created a magical oasis of light.


Architect: Jean Nouvel
Photos: Roland Halbe, Marc Domage, Mohamed Somji

The architectural centrepiece is a giant circular dome with a diameter of 180 metres, which is mounted discreetly on four columns to give the impression that it is floating. The ornamental ceiling structure filters the sunlight during the day and generates a rich series of lighting effects, similar to the way sunrays shine through the natural patterns formed by date palms in an oasis. When the sun goes down, the lighting system from Zumtobel takes over and, conversely, makes the light shine artistically from the inside through the distinctive structure of the dome to the outside world.


Zumtobel achieved this impression by creating CHROMOSOME light, a customised solution designed specifically for the unique giant dome. CHROMOSOME light is a version of the CHIARO FT moisture-proof luminaire incorporating a special heat sink to cope with the high temperatures of Abu Dhabi.



Part of the light passes through the fully transparent luminaire housing, before being reflected by the ceiling and walls to generate a bright and pleasant spatial effect. Different lux values are used to achieve two results: a glowing impression when viewed from distance and welcoming daylight-like illumination below the actual dome. The adjustable white lamps enable a range of different colour temperatures to be produced by around 4000 CHROMOSOME fittings that have been installed in the museum. Different lighting scenarios can therefore be generated, depending on the time of day or the particular conditions. This process is fully automated thanks to a LUXMATE LITENET control system and a sky scanner, which has been programmed to monitor the natural daylight shining through the spectacular dome and then add the necessary dosage of artificial light.



The dome covers a series of art galleries, with 55 square buildings arranged like a medina – a traditional old town in the Arab world. This represented a special challenge for the lighting systems: the lux values within each gallery have to be carefully regulated in line with the sensitivity of the particular works of art. The curators at the Louvre defined three levels for the exhibits: works of art with a light ceiling of 600,000 lux, 150,000 lux and 37,500 lux per year. This means that the pieces with an annual lighting limit of 600,000 lux can only be exposed to a maximum of 125 lux during operating hours. This level falls to 22 lux for exhibits with a top yearly limit of 150,000 lux.


Within the galleries, various other lighting solutions find their place: LIGHT FIELDS, HELISSA, CHIARO, DIAMO LED, PANOS infinity and PERLUCE provide application-specific lighting and optimal presentation of more than 620 exhibit objects throughout 6,400 square metres of space.


Zumtobel solved this issue by carefully devising two lighting control concepts, which make sure that the specific lux value in each gallery is not exceeded. The first system is an automatic daylight-dependent light and blind control. The smart blinds receive the required information from the daylight sensors. However, as more intensive “sunlight patches” can sometimes reach the works of art, special additional sensors have been placed directly next to the exhibits. These components record the exact lux values that the pieces are exposed to and then precisely calculate the annual lux data. The sensors are set up to send out a warning if the prescribed limits are reached.


Zumtobel lighting solutions were also used in other areas. In the Museography Gallery, the TECTON continuous-row LED lighting system was installed in the glass ceiling for emergency lighting, while TUBILUX is used for external emergency lighting. SCUBA moisture-proof luminaires are used in the corridors and technical rooms, while AERO II provides lighting for the offices and control areas in the basement.


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