and the control of light, rather than falling back on the
conventional, orthogonal, central-cored curtain wall
scheme for tall buildings. Among other designs, the
Torre Agbar and the elegant, steel and concrete Doha
Tower in Qatar (both lit by Kersalé) take this initial
idea but implement it in quite different ways.
Like the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (Lighting Vol
47 Issue 5), which brought Nouvel to world attention in
1987, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi 30 years later (Lighting
Vol 49 Issue 6), the Doha Tower, or Burj Doha (2012), is
sheathed in sophisticated technological variants of the
traditional moucharabieh or latticed screens of North
Africa, to control the entry and play of light.
The contextual difference is that the earlier Paris
building is ‘a hinge between two cultures and two
histories. If the south side of the building, with its
motorised diaphragms, is a contemporary expression
of eastern culture, then the north side is a literal
mirror of western culture,’ explains Nouvel. However,
there are also technical differences. At the Institut du
Monde Arabe the 30,000 camera-like diaphragms in
the southern wall were intended to respond slowly to
climatic conditions, under computer control, whereas
in the Doha Tower and at the Louvre Abu Dhabi
the complex geometry and intricate layering of the
components creates the lighting and shading effects.
In the case of the Louvre these include a seemingly
organic ‘rain of light’.
The same metal is used in great swirls on the exterior
of the Philharmonie de Paris (2015), but in a barely
related way, the facade partly comprising 340,000
interlocking bird shapes in four shades of grey.
‘At night the volume will come alive with images,
colours, and lights expressing the life going on inside’
– Jean Nouvel
Opposite: the diaphanous facades of the Danish Radio Concert House,
Copenhagen, change in daylight and become huge screens at night
Previous pages: Yann Kersalé’s light installation L’Ô for the Musée
de Quai Branly, created with Nouvel and landscape architect Gilles
Clément. The 1600 translucent rods change colour between white
and deep turquoise in response to the temperature