Fire Protection

Making a Masterpiece: Louvre Abu Dhabi

March 15, 2018
Louvre Abu Dhabi - Exterior Shot

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring structures ever built. It has achieved this without being the biggest, tallest, most expensive or even the most technologically advanced building in the world. The architecture is so potent, that it became infamous instantly. It’s an icon: and that didn’t happen by accident.

The Design

French architect Jean Nouvel, a celebrated Pritzker Prize winner, was inspired by the traditions of the UAE and his own experiences designing the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. As the Louvre is a globally recognised French institution and with his previous connection to the Arab world, Jean Nouvel’s appointment to the project was a fitting choice.

The most striking element of the structure is the lattice dome – which from a distance appears chaotic, like smoke trapped under a glass. It’s actually an intricate series of layers, each made in a single repeating geometric pattern. Where each layer overlaps, a complex and deep web is formed, which allows narrow pillars of light to fall through.

Louvre Abu Dhabi - Dome Closeup

This creates the effect of walking under a forest canopy – or under one of Abu Dhabi’s rows of date palms. It also provides shade and reduces internal temperatures, which keeps visitors comfortable while providing a better climate for the preservation of valuable artworks.

The water around and within the structure plays with the light, reflecting the rays peeking through the lattice dome.

A Miniature City in the Sea

Under the dome is a network of buildings – a total of 55 distinct structures, connected by walkways and separated by water. The entire archipelago of buildings appears to float on the surrounding sea, and can be accessed by land or by water.

This miniature city of smaller buildings is where visitors can view artworks – both loaned to and owned by Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as cafés, restaurants and other exhibitions. Gallery buildings are climate controlled, to ensure correct humidity and consistent temperature.

Keeping cool air in while keeping sand and blistering desert sunlight out was an extreme feat of engineering – and the marine environment added corrosion to the already long list of challenges. But the skilled engineering team at BuroHappold Engineering worked to deliver the vision of this wonderful building, without sacrificing any of its beauty.

Developing Fire Protection for The Louvre Abu Dhabi

One of the most difficult areas to manage in this project was arguably the most important: fire safety.

Fire in an art gallery represents a danger to life, as well as to countless culturally and historically significant works. The preservation of human life will always be the number one priority of any fire safety strategy – but here, an extra element of precious cargo is added.

Louvre Abu Dhabi - Internal Buildings

The first challenge is sprinklers; their very presence puts priceless works of art at risk. The same goes for the use of inert gas systems. But building regulations in the UAE demand that certain spaces are protected by fire suppression systems, in the interest of public safety. To solve this problem, the engineering team elected to make each of the 23 gallery buildings a fire compartment, isolated from the rest of the space.

By using vertical fire curtains and fire shutters, each gallery space is compartmentalised in the event of fire. With a sophisticated, bespoke smoke ventilation and airflow system, artwork can be protected from heat, smoke and flames – all while remaining compliant to building regulations.

This ingenious solution allows a seamless experience, without compromising the safety of visitors or artworks.

Fire Safety Specialists

At Coopers Fire, we’ll continue to progress our development of fire curtains and fire protection – so that buildings can be safer without sacrificing design. To find out more, or to enrol in one of our educational training courses, call us on 02392 454 405 or email

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