Intitute du Monde Arabe, Paris

The Arab World Institute in Paris has great shows of Islamic art, a fabulous bazaar marketplace, amazing architecture, and the best unknown views in central Paris

This might very well be my favorite viewpoint in Paris.

The Arab World Institute has a cafe with a little outdoor terrace offers a fantastic view down the Seine to the backside of Notre Dame—the bit with all those flying buttresses—plus the building itself is a trip, if a bit hard to explain.

The amazing architecture of the Institut du Monde Arabe

The exterior walls of this institute of Arab studies are made up of mechanized metal irises—sort of like on an old SLR camera—of varying diameters sandwiched between sheets of glass.

A computer controls the opening and closing of these millions of tiny round holes so that when any one wall is in the shade, the irises on it open fully up to let in lots of light and heat, but when the sun hits them they all squinch up tight to block out the rays.

The idea is to help regulate the building's interior temperature with minimal use of artificial A/C and heating—though the bugs clearly were never properly worked out, since it only appears to work properly up to a point, with plenty of irises at varying levels of openness no matter what their neighbors are doing.

The exhibitions and the bazaar

Other reasons to love the Institute:

Also, it's really close to the Jardin des Plantes.

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One of the bizarre windows in teh Institut du Monde Arabe
One of the bizarre windows in the Institut du Monde Arabe, filled with variable mechanical aperature diaphragms.

 

 

The souk marketplace at the Institut du Modne Arabe in Paris
The souk marketplace at the Institut du Modne Arabe.