Frank Gehry radically changed the architecture of Paris through the Louis Vuitton Foundation
Your first instinct, when you see an exceptional new building that is unlike anything you’ve seen before, is to try to understand it by relating it to what you know. And so Frank Gehry’s new Louis Vuitton foundation, in Paris, looks like sails, looks like a boat, looks like a whale, looks like a crystal palace in the middle of an explosion. Some of the interior makes you think of Piranesi, and when you look up at the top of the stair tower, traces of Russian Constructivism, such as Vladimir Tatlin’s magnificent spiral tower, may flash into your mind, just as standing in front of it and from one angle the facade can make you think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s synagogue, a synagogue. Sholom, and his great book “Mount Sinai in Glass”.
But none of these comparisons matter at all. They’re all right about them, but they’re really just ways of postponing coming to terms with the fact that this building is something entirely new, a new work of monumental public architecture that’s completely unlike anything anyone, including Frank Gehry, could have done. He did before. You could call it a 21st-century snapshot of the Grand Palais, the extravagant fine arts gallery off the Champs-Élysées, and you could also say it’s Gehry’s attempt to make his own Guggenheim Museum Bilbao out of glass. But even those that come close miss much of what makes this building special, just as the descendant of Gehry’s IAC office building, in New York, is called, made up of billowy white glass that always reminds people of sails. It only begins to explain what Gehry did in this unlikely location within the Bois de Boulogne in the west end of Paris.
Gehry, now 85, continues to push himself forward, as Picasso and Wright did late in their careers, relentlessly determined that, whatever the importance of his earlier works, they should serve as the foundation for something more than a mere epilogue. He’s been experimenting with curved glass for years, twisting and turning it into singing, dancing shapes, and here the long endeavor that began with the glass panels adorning the cafeteria he designed for the Condé Nast building in 1999, culminates in massive glass sails that are pieces of architecture in their own right, shapes Luxurious, giving shape to the entire building.
Jerry loves the shape of a fish as much as he loves sailing and boats, and it’s not difficult to see this building as the moment when these preoccupations come together into one massive, complex object. Another long-standing theme in Gehry’s work is his desire to tear down the facades of his buildings, to make the structure – what he calls the “bones” – visible as a way to celebrate the aesthetic hidden within, and what began decades ago when he began exposing the timber frame within the walls of small houses, has developed here To show massive, massive curves of steel and wood, a frame that seems to simultaneously evoke the Eiffel Tower and an ancient church. This build is muscular and delicate: he’s a linebacker with the movements of a ballerina, or, if you prefer, he’s a Moby Dick with the athleticism of a sailfish.
The $143 million Fondation Louis Vuitton, which will open to the public in October, was commissioned by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton, as a contemporary art museum and cultural centre. Not only its architecture is unusual. There are relatively few private museums in France, and by building this museum Arnault – himself a major collector – clearly hoped to strengthen the relationship between his company and advanced art and design. But it has the potential to develop a more powerful brand than LVMH: the brand of France itself, and of Paris, where creative energy surrounded modern art, architecture and design in the first half of the 20th century more than anywhere else. Paris has long since ceded its lead as a creative hub to New York and other cities, not even the French government’s massive investment in architecturally ambitious projects like the Center Pompidou, built by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, and the expanded Louvre, with its historic landmarks. The Glass Pyramid by I.M. Pei and the City of Music by Christian de Portzamparc were enough to restore it.
But until now there has been no significant private investment in a cultural institution, a new entity to be conceived, designed, built and managed without the heavy hand of French bureaucracy. Gehry’s building – his first project in Paris since he completed the American Centre, now the Cinémathèque Française, in 1994 – is the most compelling work of new architecture the city has seen since the opening of the Center Pompidou, nearly 40 years ago. The new and cultural center that embraces the unbridled enthusiasm of the private sector. Paris has never seen a marriage of cultural ambition and private enterprise on this scale, and perhaps it has a chance to achieve something that extends beyond Gehry’s glass doors.
Its roots go back to 2001, when Jean-Paul Claverie, who joined LVMH as a special advisor to Arnault after working under Jacques Lange at the French Ministry of Culture, became so enthusiastic about the Guggenheim Museum that Gehry had created in Bilbao, that he insisted that Arnault take a trip to Spain. To see her. “I wanted him to discover it and share the feeling I had standing in front of him,” Claverie told me. “It wasn’t easy, he canceled the project twice, but we finally succeeded in November of 2001,” Claverie recalls, when Arnault, face to face with the Gehry building, said only: “How could anyone imagine this architecture?” ?”
Arno said he had to meet Jerry, who is based in Los Angeles, and the two arranged to have lunch a month later in New York. Arnault told Gehry that he envisioned a building in Paris that embodied the mission of his Louis Vuitton Creativity Foundation to support the arts and education and that he wanted it to be an important work of architecture.
(tags for translation)Architecture