A major architectural gesture
From an initial sketch drawn on a blank page in a notebook to the transparent cloud sitting at the edge of the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, Frank Gehry constantly sought to "design, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolising the cultural calling of France".
A creator of dreams, he has designed a unique, emblematic and bold building.
Respectful of a history rooted in French culture of the 19th century, Frank Gehry dared to use technological achievements of the 21st century, opening the way for pioneering innovation.
We wanted to present Paris with an extraordinary space for art and culture, and demonstrate daring and emotion by entrusting Frank Gehry with the construction of an iconic building for the 21st century.
To reflect our constantly changing world, we wanted to create a building that would evolve according to the time and the light in order to give the impression of something ephemeral and continually changing.
Frank Gehry retained from the 19th century glass’ transparent lightness and the taste for walks punctuated by surprises.
His architecture combines a traditional "art de vivre", visionary daring and the innovation offered by modern technology.
From the invention of glass curved to the nearest millimetre for the 3,600 panels that form the Fondation's twelve sails to the 19,000 panels of Ductal (fibre-reinforced concrete), each one unique, that give the iceberg its immaculate whiteness, and not forgetting a totally new design process, each stage of construction pushed back the boundaries of conventional architecture to create a unique building that is the realisation of a dream.
This great architectural exploit has already taken its place among the iconic works of 21st-century architecture. Frank Gehry's building, which reveals forms never previously imagined until today, is the reflection of the unique, creative and innovative project that is the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
To produce his first sketches, Frank Gehry took his inspiration from the lightness of late 19th-century glass and garden architecture. The architect then produced numerous models in wood, plastic and aluminium, playing with the lines and shapes, investing his future building with a certain sense of movement. The choice of materials became self-evident: an envelope of glass would cover the body of the building, an assembly of blocks referred to as the "iceberg", and would give it its volume and its vitality.
Placed in a basin specially created for the purpose, the building fits easily into the natural environment, between woods and garden, while at the same time playing with light and mirror effects. The final model was then scanned to provide the digital model for the project.
13 500 m2 : surface area of the 12 glass sails
19 000 sheets of Ductal (white fibre-reinforced concrete)
7 000 m2 : total usable floor space
3 850 m2 : museum space
11 exhibition galleries
350 (seats) - 1 000 (up) : seats in the auditorium
The Fondation Louis Vuitton is located next to the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, the famous park on the west side of Paris.
With an area of 846 hectares, the Bois de Boulogne has 28 km of bridle-paths and 15 km of cycle-paths, and contains well-known waterfalls and numerous lakes, streams and ponds that have been the delight of many Parisians since the mid 19th century.
Encouraged by Baron Haussmann, the Prefect of Paris, and of the Emperor Napoleon III, the engineer Alphand and the landscape gardener Barillet-Deschamps designed this great oasis of greenery from 1853 onwards, taking their inspiration from Hyde Park in London.
In October 1860, after two years of construction work, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie opened the Jardin d'Acclimatation. Thus providing Paris with a landscaped park designed in accordance with the model of English gardens that they so admired, in the Bois de Boulogne, just next to the Longchamp race-course.
The Jardin d'Acclimatation soon became a fashionable venue prized by walkers, teachers and scientists. Offering an enormous variety of exotic plants and rare animals, the Jardin has housed from its very beginnings a zoological society which, under the guidance of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, soon developed a triple educational, scientific and recreational mission. Thus the Palmarium was inaugurated in 1893 by Sadi Carnot, while the Aquarium, which first opened in 1861, had in the space of thirty years become one of the most famous examples of its kind in the world.
Even today, in addition to its exceptional landscape, the Jardin d'Acclimatation contains architectural features that bear witness to its history. The great aviary, the dovecot, the stables, the bandstand and the rocky outcrop frequented by deer all give it its particular Parisian charm.
Since it first opened in 1860, it has been the scene of the childhood games of the young Marcel Proust and of countless subsequent generations of children.