Content and design, both inside and out, relate as much in the museum’s architecture, integrating the town, the region and its inhabitants. “The model designed by SANAA was the only one factoring in the park in which we are, and this idea of openness for easy access was what we had in mind for the museum,” Dectot reports enthusiastically. “With this very sober, very low building, which is very easy to access, they have brought this idea to life.”
Whereas comparable museum buildings tend to attract attention with solitary, monumental architecture to upgrade a place (Guggenheim Museum), the new Louvre presents itself as unobtrusive and open. Suffused with light, the steel, glass and concrete structure on the two-hectare site sensitively establishes a dialogue with its surroundings. Designed by Japanese architectural firm Sanaa in cooperation with New York studio Imrey Culper, the building sits on a disused coal mine. The single-storey building harmoniously integrates with the park landscaped by Catherine Mosbach. Even the entrance, a transparent glass cube, demonstrates closeness and openness which the museum wants to communicate to the people. The cladding of anodised brushed aluminium used for the remaining sections dimly reflects the surroundings.
The lighting concept
Special consideration in the museum design was given to the light – a combination of daylight and artificial light guided across the delicate-looking ceiling. “The lighting concept is based on SANAA’s architectural concept using zenithal daylight,” explains Gardère. “The times when a black jewel box was illuminated by a beam focused onto the isolated, floating object in the dark are gone.” Today’s overriding thought is, through daylight, to let the objects become part of the room. Adds lighting designer Jeff Shaw from Arup: “People love daylight, they like the link with the outside, feel good in daylight. The light colour is perfect, its colour rendering properties accentuate all the colours of the objet d’art.”
A structure such as this, awash with light, needs the support of artificial light. “Daylight varies greatly,” explains Jeff Shaw. “In one day, it can range from darkness to 100,000 lux on a summer’s day. The light can vary quickly between 20,000 and 50,000 when the sun disappears behind clouds.” A challenge which the Arup designers faced head on. The system they devised using LED lighting supports the daylight as needed, with venetian blinds installed to prevent an excess of incident sunlight – the purpose at all times being to ensure a uniform level of light. As a further aspect, the light colour varies depending on the exhibition and architectural environment. “Understanding which light temperature is best took quite some work,” said Adrien Gardère.
Daylight used in combination with LED lighting helps to save energy and costs, but also allows new, custom-fit control options to be generated. “This control system is fantastically suited to our museum. It is designed entirely around our collection and enables us to use tracks,” Vincent Fourmestraux, Head of Operations and Maintenance at the Louvre, reports delighted. “It takes a while to set the system up, but in the end the same lighting configurations can easily be used for future special exhibitions.”
The many advantages of the LED are vivid in this project. Dimmable without loss of light quality, they do not need any disruptive artefacts, but instead produce sharp-edged beams for efficient accentuation, making them a harmonious addition to daylight. Thanks to their small size and simple styling as a result of the photometrics used, the ERCO LED luminaires correspond to the elegant architectural concept of the Louvre Lens even on a formal level.
Jeff Shaw predicts a change in lighting technology for museums. “I think most of the major museums will now start to give some serious thought to LED lighting.” The visitor will notice very little here. For Shaw, after all, “the ultimate aim of the lighting designer is to create a lighting concept where the light is not talked about. People simply come, enjoy where they are, do what they came for, and go home again.”