Saturday, 15 June 2013

Institut de Monde Arabe

Back in the 1980s, Paris was in the middle of having its' sky line changed for ever through the construction of eight monumental building projects. These 'Grand Projets' were an ambitious plan initiated by Francois Mitterand in 1982, a “testament to political symbolism and process.”

The eight projects included the Louvre Pyramid (1989), Musee d'Orsay (1986), Parc de la Villette (1987), Institut de Monde Arabe (1987), Opéra Bastille (1989), Grande Arche de La Défense (1989), Ministry of Finance (1989) and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (1996).

Last week we went to the Institut de Monde Arabe where I hadn't been for a while. It is a centre for Arabic Culture, located on Rue des Fossés Saint Bernard in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The building houses a museum, a library, an auditorium, offices and meeting rooms. Its' elegantly curved northern facade flanks the Seine. This is the view you get of it as you approach cross the Pont de Sully from the Rive Droite.

Once you get up close you see one of the entrances (used only for some exhibitions) in between the two wings of the building.

The Institut de Monde Arabe is a genius building in my humble opinion, that combines the use of modern materials and technology to create a geometric motif commonly found in traditional Islamic architecture.

This southern facade consists of 113 photosensitive panels that operate like a camera's diaphragm opening and closing to control the intensity of light in the interior. As you can see from the photograph, some of the 'lenses' are open and some are closed, suggesting that many of the photosensitive detectors are broken. This is disappointing, but in truth the facade still looks wonderful.

Looking up.

At the moment there is an exhibition in the courtyard in front of the Institut de Monde Arabe, housed in a futuristic pavilion, with vast curves and a shiny white fibre re-inforced plastic facade. This Chanel Mobile Art Container, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, has been donated by Chanel to the Institut de Monde Arabe

Once in the main building you get a close up look at the photosensitive glazed panels.



Peeking through a lens at the Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion.

Looking towards the central lift shaft.

The mens' toilets! Yes, I snuck in quickly to get this photo of one of the panels reflected in an evacuation pipe!

Here is a view looking in to the inner courtyard of the building.

And then when you get to the top floor you are graced with a beautiful view of Paris and the river Seine.

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