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".
An Architectural Gesture
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.
Frank Gehry retained 19th century glass’s 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 makes a dream come true.
" 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".
The artistic gesture
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.
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. In October 1860, after two years of construction work, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie opened the Jardin d'Acclimatation. This provided Paris with a landscaped park designed in accordance with the model of English gardens that they so admired, in the Bois de Boulogne, right next to the Longchamp race-course.
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.
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.
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 dovecote, 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.
The Fondation in figures
- 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 (standing): seats in the auditorium
In order to conform to Frank Gehry's design, the people involved in the construction work found solutions to numerous unprecedented technical challenges, from the initial conception of the project right through to its finishing touches.
In particular, the manufacture of glass was an opportunity to rethink the know-how. A special furnace was created to meet the requirements for curves and projections imposed by the designer.
An AVANT-GARDE TECHNOLOGY
Frank Gehry's creativity requires constant technical innovation. Both in the design of the concept itself and the approach to the construction work, the Fondation Louis Vuitton project turns the principles of architecture upside down. From the very first stages onwards, all the partners brought together for the project have used a single tool: Digital Project, a software program developed by Gehry Technologies on the basis of the Catia program created by Dassault Systèmes.
The exceptional performance of this program has made it possible to create the complex shapes imagined by Frank Gehry, from the design of the building through to the assembly of the different elements on site, and requiring very close collaboration between the different teams working simultaneously with a common 3D model.
A HIGH-END AND ENVIRONMENTAL APPROACH
The construction of the Fondation Louis Vuitton building conforms to the LVMH Group's commitment to sustainable development. From the initial launch of the project, the fauna and flora and the local water-tables were examined and analysed, while the acoustic impact and the anticipated arrival of the general public were all taken into consideration.
The ecological and human bases of sustainable development have thus been placed at the heart of each stage of the project: its design, construction and subsequent use.
Once the building is open, the preservation of its natural resources will continue to be a constant concern. Rainwater will be recovered, for example, so as to supply those systems not requiring drinking water.
Stored and filtered, this water will be used preferably to clean the façades and glass roofs of the building. It will also supply the basin on which the Fondation building is positioned, and finally will also be used to water the plants and terraces. The consumption of the drinking water used in the Fondation building will therefore be limited and will be adjusted to requirements.
Such innovation for the design of the building required associations between Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners with several partners. For the construction project management, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is assisted by QUADRATURE INGENIERIE. SETEC, RFR, T/E/S/S, and ALEP are the prime contractors, VINCI is the general contractor.
ALEP is responsible for landscaping, harmonising the building with the surrounding Jardin d’Acclimatation and oversees the integration of the Fondation into its environment.
Quadrature Ingénierie assists the Louis Vuitton Fondation in its mission, as technical contracting authority support, for management teams of architects, project management and business.
RFR+TESS, French architectural research consultancy, which has worked on a number of prestigious past projects, are working together on the design of the glass sails and iceberg.
SETEC BÂTIMENTS, a leading engineering consultancy in France, with an enviable worldwide reputation, is carrying out the structural design and the study of the fluids of the building and coordinating all of the design elements.
STUDIOS ARCHITECTURE, an international architectural practice, develops and finalises the architectural conception of Frank Gehry and his Los Angeles-based consultancy, Gehry Partners.
VINCI Construction, a French company internationally recognised in construction, has been selected to construct the building of the Fondation with the help of its many subcontractors (the first being EIFFAGE CONSTRUCTION METALLIQUE, which support the production of the twelve glass sails) and manage the entire site.
The major phases
2001 – Bernard Arnault meets Frank Gehry after visiting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The idea of collaborating on the Fondation Louis Vuitton project is launched.
October 2006 – In the presence of Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, Minister for Culture and Communication, Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris, and Frank Gehry, the project's architect, Bernard Arnault, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of the LVMH group, and Yves Carcelle, Chairman of Louis Vuitton, officially announce the creation of the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
December 2006 – By an agreement reached with the City of Paris in December 2006 granting occupancy of public land, the Fondation Louis Vuitton obtains a 55-year lease for a plot of 1 hectare on which to construct a building dedicated to art and creation.
August 2007 – Planning permission is granted.
March 2008 – Construction begins with the earthworks and diaphragm walls.
2010 –The model of the Fondation Louis Vuitton is exhibited at the Centre Pompidou Metz during its opening exhibition entitled "Chefs-d’œuvre?" in the architecture section.
2011 – End of structural works and installation of the iceberg's metallic framework.
2012 – Installation of the iceberg's shells, the Ductal then the glass sails.
2013 – "the laying of the last stone".
28 February 2014 – Building reception.
Spring 2014 – Final landscaping of the Fondation's surroundings.
27 October 2014 – Public opening.