Institut du Monde Arabe

Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France, Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Project year : 1989
Architect(s) :
Address : 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, PARIS, France
Latitude/Longitude : 48.8491252,2.3557086

Institut du Monde Arabe was established in 1980 in Paris, when an agreement with France was concluded from 18 countries 18 Arab countries concluded an agreement with France to establish the Institute with information about the Arab world and to start research to cover Arabic and the Arab world’s cultural and spiritual values. The Institute also promotes cooperation and cultural exchanges between the Arab World and France, mainly regarding the areas of science and technology. In this way, it contributes to the development of relations between the Arab world and Europe.

Architectural features

Institut du Monde Arabe is located on Rue des Fossés Saint Bernard in Paris, France. The building was constructed from 1981 to 1987 with a floor space of 181,850 square feet, after Jean Nouvel became the winner of the 1981 competition. Jean Nouvel’s project proposed solutions that were risk-taking but they have proven themselves through time.

The building acts as a buffer zone between the Jussieu Campus, in large rationalist blocks, and the Seine. The river facade follows the curve of the waterway and helps reduce the hardness of a rectangular block, adapting itself to the view from the Sully Bridge. Also, the building seems to fold itself back in the direction of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district.

In contrast, the opposite facade is uncompromisingly rectangular. There is a large square public space that faces it, opening out towards the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame. A metallic screen unfolds with moving geometric motifs above the glass-clad storefront and the motifs open and close every hour as they are actually 240 motor-controlled apertures, that act to control the light entering the building. The building’s mechanism has the ability to create interior spaces that are filtered with light, an effect often used in Islamic architecture with its climate-oriented strategies. This building was the project that made Nouvel famous to the world and it is also one of the cultural reference points of Paris. Furthermore, it has won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

The building houses a museum, a library, an auditorium, a restaurant and offices.