Frank Gehry's Louis Vuitton art museum sails onto Paris skyline

Fri Oct 17, 2014 12:30pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Billowing sails of glass join the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur as permanent fixtures of the Paris skyline this month, when the new Fondation Louis Vuitton contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry opens to the public.

Thirteen years in the making, the museum is the brainchild of Bernard Arnault, the chief executive and founder of LVMH. France's richest man envisioned a bold new piece of architecture in the capital that would tie the world's largest luxury group with the cutting edge of art and design.

The private museum that opens to the public on Oct. 27 will be donated to the city of Paris in 50 years.

Reflecting sky, clouds and light, the airy and audacious building by Los Angeles-based architect Gehry jutting from a one-hectare plot on the western edge of the city resembles a swaying ship poised over a rectangular pool of water.

Anchored by imposing iron and wood girders that evoke Belle Epoque steelwork, and relying on aerospace technology for its construction, Gehry's masterstroke is the building's 12 undulating sails covering an area of 13,500 square meters.

The rectangular panels of glass made in specially created ovens in Italy reflect the light in different ways as they appear to twist this way and that. They float over the body of the building, "the iceberg," constructed of fiber-reinforced concrete known as Ductal.

From the inside, cutaways allow glimpses of the surrounding Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne as well as the Eiffel Tower and La Defense business center.

"We had to make a building that was glass and ephemeral and then that became a sailing ship for me, a regatta," Gehry told Reuters TV at a press viewing of the museum on Thursday.   Continued...

A general view shows the Fondation Louis Vuitton designed by architect Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne, western Paris, October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier