While his work is known internationally, Frank Gehry’s designs do not suit every person’s taste – or budget.
It is common knowledge that many of the projects in which Gehry is involved take longer to complete and often cost considerably more than planned.
With his latest project, the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, this winner of the Pritzker Prize has been true to style, but court cases to prevent the erection of the building eventually have not succeeded.
The museum, the brainchild of Bernard Arnault, chairperson and head of the LVMH luxury goods conglomerate, has been built on the border of the Bois de Boulogne, the second largest park in Paris. Arnault has himself carried the cost of the building, but it will be handed over to the city of Paris (without its contents) in 55 years’ time. Some reports indicate that this – together with the important names connected to the project – partly provides the reason for the eventual approval of the building. The courts had put a stop to the erection of this museum in 2011, but construction was commenced a year later; legislation concerning conservation had been adapted so that ‘artistic work of world-wide importance’ would not be frustrated by ‘general’ conservation legislation.
The structure actually comprises two buildings, as no museum could hang works of art on glass surfaces – as reported in the Architectural Digest. The majestic outer walls of glass are compared to the sails of sailing ships in most reports – the highest of these measures 43 metres and was construced with 13 500m2 glass. Gehry has said that he derived inspiration from different glass and steel structures dating from the 19th century, including the Palmarium, a dispaly area for exotic threes, plants and birds that had been constructed in 1893 and was demolished in 1934.
The ‘second’ building, comprising eleven separate art halls, is built with specially reinforced concrete.
According to Gehry, he had to wipe away a tear on his first visit to the Bois de Boulogne, this park being the place where Marcel Proust had played as a child! Whether this is true, no one will probably ever know for sure.
However, Gehry, with the political and financial support of Arnault, has presented Paris with a building that already lures large numbers of people from all over the world despite the icy cold of winter.