Architecture report – in the bois de boulogne in Paris, the meeting of two creators of luxury items has produced a fine gallery of art, designed at the highest level.
It emerges from a pine forest as a ship frozen by a snowfall, as an iceberg in a forest: this is the iconic building erected by gehry for the iconic firm Louis Vuitton. It is a public museum of contemporary art, also a gem to adorn the “city of light”; a jewel for a city that already owns several of the most architectural treasures of the world.
Frank gehry and bernard arnault, the billionaire ceo of louis vuitton group, meet in the project of this iconic cultural building. Arnault was searching for a legacy project and, as an important contemporary art collector, his idea was to create a public museum of modern and contemporary art in a building designed by the best.
The meeting and start of the collaboration took place in 2001, which was disclosed in 2006. The decision was to place it in the bois de boulogne,in the 16th arrondissement, a privileged place among luxury flats and embassies. As many as these “buildings- as-thing”, the louis vuitton foundation has its own myth, easy to digest.
Marcel Proust, who was brought up nearby and probably spent some time in that park a century ago, inspired gehry the same way as the legacy of the iron-and- glass buildings from the late 19th century, that once were landmarks built in different places in the city: from the grand palais, still standing, the bibliothèque nationale, to the jardin d’hivers, the galerie des machines or the large greenhouses of the jardin d’acclimatation, the playground whose boundary is the place of the new building.
The building can be read like curved-glass sails wrapping the galleries. Also divided into four distinct groups, organic layers around each other.
In the inner-core, a series of 11 spaces as galleries in different scales. Much of them are lighted by skylights, making them have a more geometric, orthogonal shape and giving a different reading. These boxes, together with the auditorium, the restaurant and the gift shop, became objects moulded by a white cape.
The next layer is the collection’s one, with circulation spaces around the galleries connecting inside and outside the building, folding stairs and roof terraces that provide views above the trees of the roofscape of haussmann’s Paris.
From a “final perspective”, the whole building appears surrounded by 12 huge glass panels framed by giant girders of glued laminated timber, connected back to the building by a succession of steel elements, creating an internal-external place. The colors of the materials are very pale: white, pink, wood.
This is, undoubtedly, the most exquisite gehry: located above a water fountain cascading as a waterfall, the garden plays as a majestic setting. In architectural terms, the value of the work is at least debatable, but as a luxury item tailored to what represents vuitton’s firm, gehry’s work is unsurpassable. The foundation has an auditorium, terraces, a documentation center, a library and a restaurant, spread over a total area of 2,400 m2. The louis vuitton foundation for creation has already generated controversy: critical voices claim that the building will destroy a green lung in the city, while supporters declare that it will bring the cultural identity of paris at a level even higher. Many may recall what happened with the eiffel tower: there was opposition in 1887 to its construction for being useless and unattractive. Finally, time had the last word. As architect jean nouvel says, “the history of paris is the history of its architecture”, and ends prophesying “within a few years this unique, ethereal structure will be declared a national monument”.