At the Louvre Abu Dhabi there are very few specialists whose work is required to be quite so behind-the-scenes as that of those in the mechanical, electrical and plumbing division (MEP).
Their task? To turn Jean Nouvel’s creation into a museum fit for the display of some of the world’s most priceless artworks.
After all, while Nouvel’s dome might capture the headlines, who would allow a Manet or a Picasso to be displayed in conditions where bright sunlight, heat or humidity might cause them to deteriorate?
“This type of building is new in the UAE,” says Sulaiman Rafeek the Turner Construction International MEP project manager for the museum.
“Other buildings cater for people but here the buildings are primarily geared towards the objects and those are far more demanding.
“Even back-of-house areas require environmental controls, temperature controls and daylight controls and that’s something very new here.”
The temperatures inside the galleries cannot deviate by more than one degree from 24 degrees centigrade and that has to be guaranteed, says Robert Ryan BuroHappold Engineering’s deputy director and head of MEP.
"The demands placed on the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s MEP systems are more than just a matter of creating environments that are suitable for its exhibits."
“The numbers may not sound tight and you may find them on other jobs,” the Englishman says, “but on other jobs if they go out of range, no one will be concerned because they are only satisfying human comfort.
“Here when we say plus or minus one degrees, we have to be certain that is what we will get.
“We have our own standards but we also have to comply with standards set out by Agence France-Museums, with international lending standards for the loan of artworks and with insurance requirements as well.”
The demands placed on the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s MEP systems are more than just a matter of creating environments that are suitable for its exhibits.
Thanks to the museum’s design, the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s power supply, lighting, air conditioning, emergency and computer systems have to be as flexible as possible – as well as invisible.
For Ryan’s colleague Neil Bennett, one of the most important factors that has determined the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s MEP design is its architectural complexity.
“This is a very non-repetitive building that has to work on a variety of levels,” the electrical engineer says. “It’s not like a tower or an office or even a hotel, which tend to repeat themselves from room to room and floor to floor. The galleries here might have the same envelope, but the shape, size and volume of each is different and that creates a real challenge when it comes to designing and installing services.
“Once you’ve done one you have to start all over again with the next.”
As Bennett points out, one of the main challenges inside the galleries is achieving appropriate light levels in rooms that will receive a combination of natural and artificial light.
“There are the things you would normally expect to see in a museum, artificial emergency lighting, maintenance lighting, and display lighting,” says the engineer, “but in addition to that, the architect has also designed the galleries with windows and roof lights.”
The light levels for each gallery are determined by the type of exhibits they contain and the amount of cumulative daylight each of these can receive.
Louvre Abu Dhabi Video
Le Louvre Abu Dhabi, premier musée universel créé au Moyen-Orient, se situe sur l'île de Saadiyat,
dans le cultural district, au coeur d'une région au carrefour des civilisations.