Institut du Monde Arabe - Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Aga Khan Development Network

Institut du Monde Arabe

Institut du Monde Arabe
Location: Paris, France (Europe)
Architect: Jean Nouvel, Pierre Soria and Gilbert Lezénés, with the Architecture Studio
Client: Institut du Monde Arabe
Completed: 1987
Site size: 13'000 m²

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Institut du Monde Arabe Project Brief

This center of Arab culture occupies a beautiful site on the left bank of the Seine, facing the Ile St-Louis from the riverside edge of the University of Paris. The building consists of a museum, a library, an auditorium, offices and meeting rooms assembled within two wings separated by a courtyard opening out toward the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The translucent marble façade of the seven-storey northern wing is elegantly curved to follow the sweep of the quay. At the west end of this wing is the 100'000 volume library, a spiral tower of books behind a transparent wall of glass offering panoramic views. The principal facade of the eleven-storey southern wing consists of 113 photosensitive panels that operate like a camera's diaphragm opening and closing to control the intensity of light in the interior. The jury, while acknowledging that the building is not successful in all aspects of its design and at times overly complex to use with ease and comfort," found much to commend in its role as "a successful bridge between French and Arab cultures.

1989 Award Recipients