This cultural centre is housed in a building that was designed by
the architect Jean Nouvel and was built in the 1980's when around eighteen Arab countries
came to an agreement in partnership with France to establish the Institute. The main
purpose was to provide information about the Arab world and set in motion detailed
research to cover Arabic and the Arab world's cultural and spiritual values and it was
officially inaugurated on 30th November 1987 by François Mitterand, the President of
Located in front of the La Grande Mosquee de
Paris, the Institute also aims at continually promoting not just co-operation but also
cultural exchanges of science and technology between France and the Arab World, and Libya
joined the agreement in 1984, hence the continuing development of relations between these
nations, which is still ongoing, and it was first opened to the public in December 1987.
The l'Institut du Monde Arabe is one of the grand projects that was encouraged by the
French president and It is an urban scheme of great character, with a floor space of
around 180,000 square feet incorporating some very well illuminated exhibition areas, a
museum, a library, a 300 seat hall and a café style restaurant called Le Zyriab that serves delicious traditional
Lebanese cuisine, as well as offices and car parking.
The design competition was won by Jean Nouvel with a project that would end in us seeing
the use of high-tech photosensitive mechanical devices that control the light levels and
transparency within the building, which although adventurous at the time, has made it
famous and promoted far greater interest in the use of smart materials in other buildings.
It is the extremely large south-facing garden courtyard wall that is the incredible ocular
device which is made up of numerous and variously dimensioned metallic diaphragms that are
set in pierced metal borders and operate like a lens of a camera to allow the amount of
light from the sun into the interior of the building and the changes to the irises are
revealed internally far more than what can be observed from the exterior.
This wall has over 1600 metal screens and the design of these was based upon the wooden
wire fences of the Islamic architecture and if you are lucky you can see the screens
moving the second the light outside changes, especially on days when the sun disappears
behind the clouds and then comes back out again.
But the real reason for this remarkable place is of course the museum which displays
different aspects of Arab Islamic art from the pre-Muslim period to the Ottoman era, from
central Asia to the Atlantic as well as contemporary Arabic art and there are
approximately 600 works presented on three floors which include archaeological exhibits
and works of art.
You will be able to view ancient manuscripts, beautiful silk carpets, pottery, scientific
and astronomical instruments along with many other exhibits and on top of this, The
l'Institut du Monde Arabe is home to some unique displays of key historical and artistic
events, from the Arab world.
And from these points alone it is obvious that it is not just an imaginative and creative
building, but where it is situated a trip here will be a worthwhile experience, both from
a cultural point of view and for the fantastic views of Paris,
which include a great view of Notre Dame cathedral
and the River Seine, especially from the restaurant
situated on the ninth floor with its large windows and terrace, but the down side is that
a lot of the information is only in French and no other language, not even Arabic!
This unique museum and institute is open every day of the week from 10am through to 6pm
although it is closed on Monday's and national holidays including Islamic holidays.
Address & Contact Details:
l'Institut du Monde Arabe
1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard
Telephone: 1 40 51 38 38