Louvre Lens by SANAA
and Imrey Culbert

| 21 comments
 

The Louvre Lens, a new outpost of the Musée du Louvre by Japanese architects SANAA and New York studio Imrey Culbert, opens to the public next week in Lens, northern France (+ slideshow).

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan*

Comprising a chain of rectangular volumes, the 360-metre long-building has walls of glass and brushed aluminium that appear to be straight but actually feature subtle curves.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Hisao Suzuki

"The project avoids the strict, rectilinear shapes that would have conflicted with the subtle character of the site, as well as of free shapes that would have been overly restrictive from the perspective of the museum’s internal operations," explain SANAA architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. "The slight inflection of the spaces is in tune with the long curved shape of the site and creates a subtle distortion of the inner areas while maintaining a graceful relationship with the artwork."

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

SANAA and Imrey Culbert won a competition to design the museum back in 2006 and it is located on the site of an overgrown coal mine that had been closed down since the 1960s.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

"In keeping with a desire to maintain the openness of the site and to reduce the ascendancy of this large project, the building was broken down into several spaces," said Sejima and Nishizawa. "Through their size and layout, which follow the gradual changes in terrain elevation, the buildings achieve balance with the scale of the site and the shape of the paths and landscape features, evoking its mining history."

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

Visitors enter the building through the glazed central hall, where curved glass rooms contain a bookshop, a cafe and other facilities.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

Doors at opposite corners of this hall lead through to the two exhibition galleries. To the east, the 125-metre-long Grande Galerie provides the setting for a permanent collection of artworks dating back through six centuries, while to the west is a gallery for temporary exhibitions that adjoins an auditorium.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

Daylight filters into the galleries though glazed panels on the roof, but rows of louvres prevent direct sunlight from entering. Meanwhile, the aluminium walls create fuzzy reflections inside the rooms.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

"Context makes the content of art speak differently to each of us," architect Tim Culbert told Dezeen. "The palette and forms of the gallery wings heighten our perceptive awareness in a subtle way, impacting how we look at the art."

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

Beyond the Grande Galerie is another room with walls of glass, used for displaying art from the neighbourhood of Lens.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Hisao Suzuki

Storage areas are buried underground and can be accessed from the central hall, while two additional buildings accommodate administration rooms and a restaurant.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Hisao Suzuki

The architects collaborated with landscape architect Catherine Mosbach to surround the buildings with gardens and pathways, while the museum's exhibition spaces were designed by Studio Adrien Gardère.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

SANAA is best known for designing the Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland, but also designed a pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery back in 2009See all our stories about SANAA »

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: photograph is by Iwan Baan

Here's some more information from the design team:


Louvre Lens

The Architectural Design

The choice of placing the museum on a former mine illustrates the intent of the museum to participate in the conversion of the mining area, while retaining the richness of its industrial past. The Louvre-Lens site is located on 20 hectares of wasteland that was once a major coal mine and has since been taken over by nature since its closing in 1960. The land presents some slight elevation, the result of excess fill from the mine.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: ground floor plan - click above to see a larger image

The Japanese architects from SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa wanted to avoid creating a dominating fortress, opting instead for a low, easily accessible structure that integrates into the site without imposing on it by its presence. The structure is made up of five building of steel and glass. There are four rectangles and one large square with slightly curved walls whose angles touch.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: basement floor plan - click above to see larger image

It is reminiscent of the Louvre palace, with its wings laid almost flat. The architects wanted to bring to mind boats on a river coming together to dock gently with each other. The facades are in polished aluminum, in which the park is reflected, ensuring continuity between the museum and the surrounding landscape. The roofs are partially in glass, reflecting a particular advantage to bringing in light, both for exhibiting the works and for being able to the sky from inside the building.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: section AA - click above to see larger image

Natural light is controlled by means of a concealment device in the roof and interior shades forming the ceiling. Designed as an answer to the vaulted ceiling, the surface retains in its light the change of seasons, hours and exhibitions.

 

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: section BB - click above to see larger image

The entire structure of 28,000 square meters extends over 360 meters long from one end of a central foyer in transparent glass to the other. The buildings located to the East of the entrance - the Grande Galerie and the Glass Pavilion - primarily house the Louvre’s collections.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: floor plan of La Galerie du Temps- click above to see larger image

To the West of the entrance is the temporary exhibition gallery and La Scène, a vast «new generation» auditorium, whose programs are in direct relation with the exhibitions.

 

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: section of La Galerie du Temps - click above to see larger image

The museum also includes a large, invisible, two level space, buried deep in fill from the site. This space will be dedicated to service functions for the public, but will also be used for storage and logistical functions of the museum. Two independent buildings house the administrative services, to the South, and a restaurant, to the North, thus establishing a link between the museum, the park and the city.

Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert

Above: elevation - click above to see larger image

*All images are c/0 SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima et Ryue Nishizawa), Imrey Culbert (Celia Imrey and Tim Culbert), Mosbach Paysagiste (Catherine Mosbach) and Studio Adrien Gardère

  • Pluk vd Petteflet

    I appreciate the clean and transparent atmosphere this project radiates. But I wonder if this wouldn’t be better fit for a clinic test laboratory with its need for sterile and neat spaces.

    I see museums, and not even myself, as special places where art/science and people interact and form an intimate connection between the personal reflection and the exposed object.

    In this case, I doubt that this space invites people to relate and discover personal meanings to the objects. The intimate atmosphere is sacrificed for the neutrality and transparency of the space.

  • Just saying…

    Brrrrr… Cold!

  • Xlmls

    Please note that Imrey Culbert were just part of the competition, it's the studio Adrien Gardère who designed the exhibition space of the museum.

    • georges

      Actually, Imrey Culbert designed the building together with SANAA through the bidding phase of design. Imrey Culbert also designed the Reserves and gave the concept for the Gallery of Time, working together with the Louvre in 2006-2008. Adrian Gardere designed the scenography (the art furniture and lay out) to fit within the building designed by SANAA and Imrey Culbert.

      • ANC

        Imrey Culbert designed the building together with SANAA through the bidding phase of design. After that, Sanaa worked directly with a local architect for the construction phase. Imrey Culbert also designed the overall concept of the museography of the building, for example, the Reserves (art storage) and the Gallery of Time, working together with the Louvre from 2006-2008. Adrian Gardere modified this concept and designed the scenography (the art furniture and layout) to fit within the building designed by SANAA and Imrey Culbert.

  • Nicole

    It must be a matter of culture, but where the first poster sees sterility and coldness I find purity and simplicity. The comparison to a laboratory or clinic is actually fascinating; if the aesthetics of a laboratory or clinic are linked to allowing the utmost concentration and visual cleanliness for its citizens, then this project acquires even more depth by looking into how museums function and the way they dictate how art is to be viewed.

  • Pluk vd Petteflet

    Perhaps is a matter of taste, however, knowing very well the French museums, which I find the best in the world, this project does not live to the expectations.

    The overall impression of it might not be that of a clinic or laboratory, but of an immaculate warehouse for art objects, which is not enough to make a good museum.

    • Nicole

      Personally, I prefer the museums in New York. I actually dislike the Louvre itself and other French museums, although the d’Orsay is magnificent.

      I don’t see how the similarity of this structure to the typology of a warehouse is necessarily a bad thing. If all else, it opens the discussion about what a museum is or should be. Also, I do need to emphasise that it is a matter of culture and not of taste. The perception of white in the west seems to come with the stigma of its association with hospitals, chilliness, emptiness, but here it brings to mind that which is simple, clean, and thus what is beautiful.

  • T,.T

    Gotta hints of Mies.

    • Chris

      Christ, is everything minimal regarded as Miesian these days?
      Seems like a cliched attempt at looking informed on the subject.

  • tooo white tooo

    It looks like Gattaca! Nooooooo!

  • Disappointed French

    With this museum they had in mind to have the success of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I think they have missed the point with this uninviting conservative building. Such a shame.

  • Relane

    Unfortunately it perpetuates that “big white box” syndrome so ubiquitous in the art world – more specifically the western art world. This treatment of the space is the default and brings absolutely nothing new to the conversation. It does in fact stall the conversation indefinitely. The museum design lacks real thought by all parties except for the landscape architecture.

    • Chris

      Probably because the 'big white box' is the most effective way of presenting art. It doesn't ask to be noticed but directs attention to the work it exhibits; surely the ultimate purpose of an art gallery?

  • GSPD

    To me this looks like a museum warehouse or abandoned Audi factory. I would probably not make the trip to visit if I was in Paris on vacation. This looks like it was heavily influenced by museum artifact proprietors who would rather you not breathe or come near anything in the collection. France is full of historic buildings in need of restoration that would make much better museums. Hope they give you a discount if you visit wearing a white straight jacket.

  • ddbb

    The views from outside are fascinating to me. The interior design seems weaker by comparison. Though, I don’t think the colour, white, is what is problematic here. The size of the buildings where art is displayed and the scenography itself are what is wrong for me. Scenography seems to stress the immensity of the spaces instead of being a element that would happily counterbalance it and ease the contact between art and the visitors.

    Anyway, I think it is worth the visit.

  • Anita

    The idea is to be neutral. Building is there to protect arts and visitors, not to present itself. From outside architecture merges with a grey northern sky, and from inside every object is so well lit and exposed in open space that we have a feeling like they belong to us.

  • http://www.renderingofarchitecture.com Raul Alfaro

    Really nice project. A big container-building with perfect open spaces for expositions and artist installations. Post-modern architecture for the masses.

  • Tifsport88

    It kind of seem like a waste of glass to me. If you are going to build a museum that is all glass just to have to frost or cover it to protect the art, why use that medium to begin with?

    • architect

      You clearly do not know the project very well. There are only two buildings that are with glass walls. All the others are solid concrete buildings with aluminum cladding and skylights above.

  • Aldigator

    Looks like the basement where Batman and Alfred keep the Tumbler parked.