Jordana and I spent Tuesday afternoon at L'Institut du Monde Arabe at rue de Fosses Saint-Bernard. She was doing research for her senior design project. We also wanted to see an exhibition currently underway about ornately-designed armour and protection for horses, as well as intricately-detailed weapons from previous centuries.
The Institute aims to foster knowledge of the Arab World culture by exchanging information about art, science and technology. French architect Jean Nouvel designed the extraordinary building in 1987. It features a huge south-facing garden courtyard wall comprised of numerous dimensioned metallic cutouts set in pierced metal borders. These diaphragms operate like a camera lens, controlling the sun's penetration into the building. This creates the effect of a giant Islamic pierced screen - typically crafted in wood - with a modern edge. The building houses a museum, exhibition areas, a library, a 300-seat hall and a restaurant, as well as offices and car parking.
Interior stairwells and elevator shafts.
Interior metallic panels based on Islamic designs.
Looking out onto the interior courtyard.
A close-up of the interwoven design of a steel panel.
Steel interior panels featuring traditional Islamic shapes with modern materials.
A huge exhibition poster displayed outside the museum.
A scene from the exhibition. Photographs were forbidden; one videographer had quite a tussle with security guards. But Jordana managed to discreetly snap a few images.
These engraved and bejeweled sabers and knives are displayed in rows as though they're dancing, but they're deadly weapons.
After visiting both the museum and exhibition, we went across the courtyard to a cafe and artisanal shop and drank Moroccan mint tea. That gave us enough energy to browse through the books, postcards and many beautiful products produced in the Arab World. A little bottle of Egyptian kohl and a brass kohl dispenser came home with Jordana, to compare it with ordinary eyeliner.
Photos by Jordana Shalhoub and Tara Bradford