L'Institut du Monde Arabe
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Architect Jean Nouvel
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Location Paris, France   map
Date 1987 to 1988   timeline
Building Type cultural center, mixed use
 Construction System frame, glass curtain wall
Climate temperate
Context urban, plaza, near river
Style Modern
Notes Museum, library, auditorium, restaurant, offices, etc., behind metal sunscreen with active sun control diaphragms. Aga Kahn award.


Photo, patterned facade facing courtyard

Photo, entry on side facing the river

Photo, courtyard entry and facade overview


Plan Drawing

Section Drawing


Site Plan Drawing

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Discussion L'Institut du Monde Arabe Commentary

"Set on a prominent site in the central part of Paris a short distance from the Church of Notre Dame, the Arab Institute is one of the Grands Projets encouraged by the French President during the 1980s. It is an urban scheme of great character. It was won in competition and houses a Franco-Arabian 'World' Institute representing 19 countries. Its purpose is to foster knowledge of Arab world culture by the exchange of information on the arts, sciences and modern technologies. It incorporates some well lit exhibition areas, a museum, library, a 300-seat hall and a restaurant, as well as offices and car parking. Internally a superb feature is the glass and steel stairs and lift enclosure, which can be seen from most parts of the building."

— Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. p394.


Address: Rue de Fosses Saint-Bernard.

On the left back of the Seine, with a view of Notre Dame de Paris, just down the river, framed in the slot between the curved and rectangular masses.

"The huge south-facing garden courtyard wall has been described as a 60m 'Venetian blind', although its appearance is more patently Islamic in decorative terms. It is, however, an ocular device of striking originality, made up of numerous and variously dimensioned metallic diaphragms set in pierced metal borders. These diaphragms operate like a camera lens to control the sun's penetration into the interior of the building. The changes to the irises are dramatically revealed internally while externally a subtle density pattern can be observed. Thus the whole effect is like a giant Islamic pierced screen, giving significance and an audacious brilliance to this remarkable building."

— Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. p394.

Sources on L'Institut du Monde Arabe

Dossier con¨u par Olivier Boissi¸re. Institut Du Monde Arabe. Paris: EDIFRA, 19xx. exterior photo of transparent envelope, p18. exterior photo from plaza, p11. interior photo of wall with light features, p15.

Kevin Matthews, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, August 1992. PCD.3189.1011.1916.019. PCD.3189.1011.1916.015. PCD.3189.1011.1916.013

Josep Montaner. New Museums. London: Architecture and Technology Press, 1990. section, p34.

Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2438-3. NA680.S517. exterior, interior photos, p394. — Available at Amazon.com

Alene Stickles, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, June 1993. PCD.2365.1012.0634.051. View from Siene River.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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Web Resources
Links on L'Institut du Monde Arabe

XIX Esposizione Internazionale: Jean Nouvel — referred by Chrsitina Aldobrandi

L'Institut du Monde Arabe at ArchiplanetFind, add, and edit info at the all-buildings collaboration

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