Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Architectural brilliance of Frank Gehry shines in Paris

I have long been a fan of the architectural brilliance of Frank Gehry, the shapes and forms of his buildings have a playfulness that makes my heart sing, so my recent visit to the new Louis Vuitton Foundation building in Le Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne Paris, was always going to be a homage. Gehry is the ultimate modern day architectural conjurer and this incredible building is proof beyond doubt. Visually it is absolutely stunning.

First opened by Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie in 1860, Jardin d'acclimatation, has delighted generations of children with attractions that include a zoo, water garden and puppet theatre so it is quite fitting that this exuberant building has been built in this exterior space that has entertained for well over a century.

Architecturally there is a similarity to other Gehry buildings, though I feel this is more in the overall mood of the building and manner in which one responds to it rather than the materials used or the architectural form. This time the hero material used is glass (as opposed to titanium in the Guggenheim Bilbao, or Brick in the new UTS building in Sydney) which creates a ‘lightness’ in the 12 sails as they soar towards the sky, yet simultaneously it feels grounded and solid. One can almost feel the sails billowing as if it is about to set sail. 

These sails of curved glass, steel and timber act as an exoskeleton, protecting the 11 white tile-clad galleries beneath and subsequently create a wonderful array of architectural juxtapositions of curves & angles. As an Australian one cannot help but be reminded of our own iconic architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House - in all the reading I have done around this building I have not seen anyone (including Frank Gehry himself) refer to similarities but to me it seems obvious - could it be atavistic?

The interior spaces are large yet intimate, light filled and calm. They house the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s contemporary art collection as well as the delicious ‘Le Frank’ restaurant at which we were lucky enough to secure a table. The food was exceptionally good, made even better by being able to absorb the spectacular surroundings with a glass of wine.

While I admit limited time meant we didn’t view the art collection as my main focus was the architecture, this is not an issue as I will definitely return soon.

Overall the building has a modernity that is entirely appropriate for the contemporary collection it houses plus the precision and attention to detail for which its namesake is renown.