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Local Matters / Changing Landscape

The Louis Vuitton Foundation will open in Paris at the end of October 2014

fondation-louis-vuitton

An extraordinary new building, the Fondation Louis-Vuitton pour la Création (Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation), is scheduled to open in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne on October 27th.

This state-of-the-art museum and cultural center was built to house the contemporary art collection of French luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). The collection includes works by Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Gilbert & George. The Foundation will also showcase pieces from the private collection of LVMH’s chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault.

The Foundation’s design and construction were funded by LVMH at an estimated cost of €113 million ($143 million), although LVMH has not disclosed the exact sum. The museum will be run as a non-profit entity separate from LVMH.

Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry designed the 11,700 m2 (126,000 sq ft) glass, stone, wood, and steel building. Construction began in 2008.

Gehry’s design of the building has many inspirations: sailboats (the billowing glass canopies), icebergs (the building’s solid white shell), conservatories, and clouds. But this utterly unique structure defies description.

We spoke with Creighton Willis, a project architect who was involved right from the start. He worked with Studios Architecture, which acted as architect of record on the project. It performed a liaison role between LVMH, Gehry Partners in Los Angeles, and all the other consultants and engineers.

Creighton said, “This is a unique work that is difficult to sum up in a single cliché. The dynamic fluid lines and volumes continually change as you move around and through the building. The technical details are invisible, so that the focus is on the sculptural spaces. The materials each have a unique expression that is consistent throughout the building, but together they form a total work. It’s a work of art, not a building.”

The project pushed the boundaries in every sense, involving hundreds of professionals. Creighton explained that the unique forms and spaces of the design could only be elaborated and understood in 3D, to find solutions to the technical challenges involved. These included the structure of the curved glass canopies, with associated waterproofing issues. Many building techniques had to be reinvented.

The Foundation has 11 separate gallery spaces, a bookstore, a restaurant, and terraces with panoramic views over the Bois de Boulogne and the Paris skyline. There is also a 350-seat auditorium.

The Bois de Boulogne is situated in the 16th arrondissement. This publicly owned park is the second largest open space in Paris, after the Bois de Vincennes. Bernard Arnault has agreed that the Foundation’s building will revert to the City of Paris in 55 years’ time.

The Foundation’s sculptural structure has inspired some controversy during its construction, but it is likely to become a must-see destination for tourists and French people alike.

Creighton has the last word, “I couldn’t be prouder to have worked on such a project. I realize how rare it is to create an ‘haute couture’ building, where every aspect has been thoroughly and uniquely designed. The combination of a luxury client and an artist-architect, with the necessary resources, is once in a lifetime.”

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