Plans for the new Department of Islamic Arts where unveiled in 2005 when Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti won a competition to design the new gallery. The two level gallery is sunken into the the Visconti Courtyard in the middle of the Louvre’s south wing, right below where the Mona Lisa lives. Not completely submerged, the gallery pokes out from the courtyard and is covered in what the architects called “a scarf floating within the space”. The roof is now being referred to as the “luminous veil,” or the “flying carpet” and provides 30,000 square feet of gallery space, which quadruples the space previously dedicated to Islamic Arts.
The roof is actually constructed of a free-form lattice composed of 8,000 steel tubes and glass covered by gilded metal. The undulating canopy contains the open floor plan gallery space where objects are displayed in glass cabinets. A large staircase descends to the lower level where natural daylight seeps in around the edges. A significant amount of work for the project required the team to excavate down 40 feet without disturbing the palace’s original foundation. The result is a cavernous space reminiscent of a tent illuminated with a soft golden light.
Images ©Mario Bellini Architects