Saturday 4 April 2015

Sailing in the clouds: Louis Vuitton, Paris

Curiosity took me recently to the suburbs of Paris to see Frank Gehry's extravagant construction for France's richest man, Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault. 
The Fondation Louis Vuitton is designed as a cultural centre to house Arnault's collection of modern and contemporary art, borrowed works for exhibitions, and a concert hall.

On the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement, it's designed as a vast sailing ship, intended to appear as if floating, suspended, above the ground.

To create the ship effect, beneath it is a sort of sunken, artificial lake, with water cascading towards it. 

Above, twelve enormous glass 'sails' are draped in curving, billowing shapes. 
It's impossible to get the whole building in camera view from the ground, but a side view gives some idea of the scale.

The effect is spectacular, certainly, and gets more so the higher you ascend to the roof top.

But the sails, and the crazy amount of timber and steel columns, beams, struts and props needed to support the illusion of weightless sails from afar, actually do rather block the views and potential connections with the surroundings.

Inside there's a ground floor restaurant with giant suspended sculpted fish, another of Gehry's favourite forms 

and impressive gallery spaces.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the place though. Critics have called it a 'crazed indulgence of over-engineering' in which the overwhelming effect is of a building with lots and lots of empty, functionless space. 

And local residents protested vigorously against its construction, on the grounds that it broke multiple laws intended to preserve the character of the Bois. But, proof that money talks, their objections were overruled when a special law was passed in the Assemblée Nationale declaring that it must go ahead as a 'major work of art for the whole world'. 

Whatever you think of it, it's worth a visit for the building alone, and now to see a major exhibition of Modernists - Les Clefs d'une Passion (here).


  1. An architectural marvel! Super photos.
    The shadows cast by the architecture are as exciting as the buildings themselves.
    Happy Easter!

  2. Karen, this post is a fantastic introduction to this architectural wonder. Your photography is so good, I do feel as if I've got a sense of the place, inside and out. I can understand both the positive and negative critiques of the building and the changed environment.

    I would surely hope to see it for myself, but doubt that will occur very soon. And so, I thank you so much for this post.

    A very Happy Easter to you. xo


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