A Magnificent Ship in Paris
The story of this dream, which became a reality thanks to the engagement of the LVMH Group and its chairman Bernard Arnault, is recounted by this exhibition dedicated to the architecture and the development process.
Bathed in natural daylight from a skylight, the exhibition begins in the Studio, which displays an original scale model around which visitors can walk before discovering two widescreen videos shot using drones. This combination creates a visual experience, offering a vision of the building’s striking beauty, as well as its technological complexity. The landings overlooking the “canyon” present key elements essential to understanding the building: its position in “Paris”, the relationship with the “Context”, Frank Gehry’s “Design”, the choice of “Materials” and the “Construction” process. The landings can be accessed via the sole staircase where the steel structural walls have been left exposed, evoking the hull of a ship. Visitors also discover the initial sketches for the project, expressing the creative inspiration of the architect, who was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1989.
Prepared in collaboration with Frank Gehry’s teams in Los Angeles, this permanent exhibition proposes an open itinerary for visitors. Like the building itself, which offers multiple possible itineraries, visitors are invited on an architectural journey that describes and explains the process that culminated in a building which is already recognized as a major new monument for Paris.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton boasts an exceptional setting in Paris, nearby the Jardin d’Acclimatation. The building designed by Frank Gehry is near the historic “royal route” to the west of Paris, which begins at the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, continuing along the Champs Elysées past the Grand Palais to the Arc de Triomphe. The route then passes the north of the Bois de Boulogne to the La Défense business district and La Grande Arche. Symbolic of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is visible from the terraces of the Foundation, like a lighthouse for the glass vessel conceived by Frank Gehry, a monument that is already emblematic of the 21st century architecture.
Terraces of different heights afford stunning views over the canopy of trees designed by engineer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand in the 19th century at the behest of Baron Haussmann and Napoleon III. The glass architecture of the Foundation evokes another Paris monument of which Frank Gehry is extremely fond, the Grand Palais. The metal and glass structures also echo 19th-century greenhouses such as the former Palmarium, a magnificent example of the style which once stood not far from the building conceived by Frank Gehry.
The natural setting of woods and park, charged with historical an literary significance, drew Frank Gehry into an emotional dialogue that culminated in his architectural design. Bernard Arnault’s original specification for an art foundation provided the basis for the development of models comprising parallelepiped-chapped volumes housing the building’s external envelope, were developed via a further series of models and drawings. The “Digital Project” 3D design software package developed by Gehry Technologies then allowed engineers to launch technical feasibility studies.
The first material that visitors encounter is the paving stones made from Rocherons Doré limestone from Burgundy. The glass enveloping the building’s internal volumes creates a playful, emotive effect, fostering a continuous visual dialogue with visitors and the environment. The glass also plays on its own transparency, revealing the monumental monochrome surfaces of the volumes in the building’s central core, dubbed “the iceberg” by its architect, which owe their whiteness to the 19.000 Ductal panels used in their construction. The support and anchorage structure for the sails, meanwhile, is made from steel and glue-laminated timber. All of these components were custom-designed using a 3D digital model (based on scans of the original scale models).
It was clear from Frank Gehry’s very first creative proposals that the project would present unprecedented technological challenges. Following a design and research phase, and led to an impressive array of the project, with the filing of more than 30
patents and ATEX innovative technique certifications. Due to the sheer complexity of the project, and the collaboration among architects, engineers, and manufacturers, a unique digital model was devleoped, enabling all of the different contributors to manage their specific project packages in accordance with a set of strict and complex rules.