IN PICS: Inside the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

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An aerial view of architect Jean Nouvel's ambitious design for the Gulf's version of the Louvre, which is scheduled to open in Abu Dhabi in 2012.
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French Architect Jean Nouvel poses in front of a model of the Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum at a cultural exhibition in Abu Dhabi. (Getty Images)
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An interior view of part of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. The French original is probably the most frequently name-dropped museum in the world.\nIt's the home of the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and for those more schooled in pop culture than high culture, it's also the setting for some of the dramatic events in Dan Brown's popular novel The Da Vinci Code.
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The autocad rendering of the interior of the museum in Abu Dhabi produces a dramatic effect. Combining his understanding of Islamic architecture with his French background, architect Jean Nouvel has developed a striking design for an Arabian version of this most iconic of French museums.
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A computer generated image shows the museum which will be built on the island of Saadiyat. Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of the building for the visitor is its distinctive 183m diameter dome. The exterior appearance seems almost reminiscent of a futuristic spacecraft, a visible impression ironically supported by the dome's invisible support. (Getty Images)
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Another view of the impressive dome which has been designed to appear as if floating above the building itself. This has proved to be one of the major challenges for the team and indeed presents probably the great challenge of the entire project.
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Currently, the dome is planned to be placed atop four or five support pillars-the final number has yet to be decided. According to Tim Page, project director at project engineers Buro Happold, even on a five-point scheme, the largest span between pillars will be 130 metres.\nApparently, the biggest challenge is to limit deflection by creating stiffness in the dome structure, which normally requires depth of structure.
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Another stunning view of the museum interior. \nHere are the key facts and figures regarding the construction of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi:\nArchitects: Ateliers Jean Nouvel\nClient: TDIC (Tourism Development & Investment Company)\nEngineers: Buro Happold\nPartner Architect: Hala Wardé\nUsable Floor Area: 17,000m2\nGross Floor Area: 26,000m2\nArchitectural Design Competition: 2007\nDesign Commencement: Jan 2008\nConcept Stage complete: May 2008 - validation of conceptual design\nSchematic Design complete: Oct 2008 - resolution of outline design\nConstruction (shell and core) Completion: 2012
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From left, France's Minister of Foreign Affair Bernard Kouchner, France's Minister of Economy and Finance Christine Lagarde, France's Minister of Culture Christine Albanel, French Architect Jean Nouvel and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy during the presentation of a model of the Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum. (Getty Images)
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The structure is inspired by the cultural traditions of the region and helps firmly plant the Louvre Abu Dhabi within the Arabian cultural context.\nThe Arabian sensation continues beneath the dome as well.