January 6, 2012
This past Wednesday, the Louvre unveiled its newly completed Arts of Islam gallery, though in a more literal sense, the museum in fact veiled it: the Louvre’s newest department, which holds a collection of 18,000 objects hailing from Spain to India, is marked by a hovering ‘magic carpet’ roof, which manages to configure 150 tons of glass and steel to evoke a silken sheet reminiscent of a flowing Islamic headscarf.
Designed by architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, the structure is miraculously upheld by eight narrow tubes and spans over 3,500 square meters of space, including two additional underground levels. The undulating form is drawing comparisons to I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, both of which are immense, costly feats of engineering that seek to add a boldly modern sheen to the Louvre’s historic compound. However, unlike Pei’s glass pyramid, the Islamic wing shows a voracious appetite for metaphor, with a roof sculpted to impeccably follow the shape of an exotic textile with little room to expand on the allusion. And while the pyramid cost roughly $16 million, the new Islamic wing comes with a $126 million price tag, a generous fraction of which was paid off by a single Saudi Prince, reports Islam Today. The museum still needs to raise over $12 million to complete the project, scheduled to open this summer.