Louis Vuitton Foundation – A Glamorous Blend of Private Enterprise and Cultural Ambition

When Bernard Arnault, chairman of the Moet Hennesey Louis Vuitton (LVMH), saw the extraordinary Spanish Guggenheim for the first time, he instantly decided it would be Frank Gehry who would design the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Arnault, a passionate art collector himself, wanted to develop a deep-rooted connection between his conglomerate and contemporary art and design. With only Arnault’s bare-boned vision of what he wanted in the building – a contemporary art museum and cultural center – Gehry got to work. It took almost 7 years to complete the building Gehry designed, which was nothing less than a remarkable piece of art itself.

At first glance, the building looks like the sails of a Barquentine ship caught in the wind. At second, a white whale. At third, a crystal frozen in time, mid explosion. No matter how many times you glance at it, it will challenge your mind to renew all your existing perceptions. That’s the true power of Gehry’s latest artistic creation.

It’s not hard to guess where Frank Gehry took the inspiration from for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, he has often exclaimed about his fascination of sails, boats and fish. He combined his inspiration with his desire to highlight the inner structure – ‘the bones’ as he calls it – of the building. Twisting and torquing the white glass to his slightest whims, he effectively created a beautiful contradiction – a building that looks muscular, yet extremely delicate. The $143 million building, spanning an area of 126,000 square feet, is exactly what Arnault had envisioned – “a haute couture building”.

Gehry’s success perhaps lies in the method he designs a building. He designs his buildings inside out; first designing the layout of the interior and then sculpting the exterior, complementing the interior without diminishing it.

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