Louvre is in the air

Thursday 31 Mar 2011

An evolutionary building process reveals a new wing; a vertical garden for the museum

The Louvre's architectural history is marked by a tradition of innovation, today it manifests in the museum's ambitious renewal in France and internationally. The proposal for a new extension at the Tuileries embodies the aspirations of a cultural institution with a clear vision of its place in the future.

The new wing extends the Tuileries gardens vertically, blending palace and park. The existing axial promenade is thus wound along a spiralling path through the new pavilion. Open to the public, this path remains accessible even when the galleries are closed. The pavilion provides added spaces for classical collections and contemporary art, expanding the museum's exhibition possibilities. The galleries are arranged along a rising path mirroring the external vertical garden and its belvederes. Visitors circle each other as they rise, meeting on the roof, with its stunning views of Paris.

The extension is conceived in three phases, a pedagogic process designed to inform and accompany the public through the process of building on such a sensitive site. A first, temporary structure of scaffolding traces the future shape of the pavilion, defining solid and open spaces. The variable density of the scaffolding makes it shift and vibrate as one walks around and up into it. The structure will be spectacular, but accessible and inviting. At night, the illuminated scaffolding hovers like an electrical mist. In the second phase, stretched canvas volumes outline the serpentine path through the future pavilion. By solidifying what has been a temporary installation, the vertical public spaces are given sculptural, negative form. The third and final phase is the pavilion itself, permanent but still permeable. The semi-transparent structure screens against harsh sunlight and frames the vertical gardens.

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