Paris – A Hi-Tech Mashrabiyya

Drawing inspiration from traditional Islamic Mashrabiyyas (Lattice worked enclosures), architect Jean Nouvel designed this fantastic facade for the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

That elevation isn’t just decorative though.

It is in fact a giant ocular device. Its several hundred light sensing diaphragms regulate the amount of light penetrating the building by altering the size of their apertures….quite like the human eye! Its imperceptibly moving lenses creating the most dramatic patterns that are reflected on shiny interior surfaces and enhanced by the stark lines of the steel staircase. A few glass elevators add to the intense, visual drama!
World Arab Institute - Paris
This award winning design (Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989, and the Equirre d’Argent for French architecture in 1987) is currently out of order and is awaiting millions of dollars worth of repairs with funds donated by Saudi Arabia.

I am grateful I got to see it in action on an earlier visit. The institute conducts guided tours of the building on certain days of the week, but they are all disappointingly in French.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did. And have a great weekend!

PS: I am going to be offline for a few days…writing this from my hotel room in Delhi in fact.  Off to battle my ‘Taj jinx’ tomorrow, so I can finally put an end to the incredulous “You haven’t seen the Taj Mahal??” question once and for all. Back soon…

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

45 thoughts on “Paris – A Hi-Tech Mashrabiyya

  1. jinx averted, I hope, Madhu!

    I’m sad this astounding piece of modern architecture/engineering has been allowed to break down – and that the exhibitions are French rather than Islamic (I wonder though whether the building itself is the star and its contents of secondary interest?).

    Now I’m here, with a permanent internet connection, I’m looking forward to catching up with your wonderful posts … 🙂

  2. “…altering the size of their apertures, quite like the human eye!! ”

    I would not have known if you had not mentioned it. What a fantastic idea/design.

    The Taj – hmmm, love to read your write up on that iconic monument. Hopefully you’ll put to rest many of the myths that surround the Taj Mahal.

    Have a safe and enjoyable journey,

  3. My oh my, that a lotta work. So many patterns to track of. Definitely worth the recognition. You must’ve used your charm again to pull strings tosee it.

  4. What a fascinating piece of work! I’d never even heard of it, Madhu. I’ve half a plan to visit Paris next Summer so I’ll keep my eyes open for news of the repairs if we do go. Madhu’s shots of the Taj- now that will be something to look forward to! 🙂

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