Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Eye on the Arab World

Facade of the Institut du Monde Arabe
I'd passed this glass-clad building with its distinctive facade many times as I'd walked to and from the Gare d'Austerlitz, but I'd never visited the Institute of the Arab World. This trip to Paris I had a day to explore before I met my niece, so I decided since the Institute was on my Paris museum pass that I'd give it a look. I'm very glad I did. The huge glass squares inspired by traditional Moorish latticed-windows, have photo-sensitive 'eyes' that open and close much like the iris of a human eye. They regulate the amount of light that enters the building.
From the inside, each window looks like a big black and white quilt pattern. These eyes are wide open
while these are in various stages of being closed.
The overall effect is a stunning wall of light and shadow that is constantly changing.

The first four floors of the building are devoted to research and conference rooms where cultural dialogue, the mission of the Institute, between France and 18 Middle East and North African nations takes place. The museum and art displays are housed on floors four through seven. They feature the art, music, science and everyday life of the Arab countries represented. There is an impressive collection of astrolabes as well as religious texts and icons from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, a reminder that all three of these world's great religions came from this common source.
This beautiful robe of multiple layers of gossamer-thin fabric was part of a display about the hammam and would have been worn after bathing was complete.

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