The Louvre Museum’s first satellite opened on December 4, 2012 in Lens, France. The Louvre is Paris’s biggest cultural attraction, one of the largest arts centres on the planet and the world’s most visited museum, attracting more than 8 million people a year. This Louvre outpost like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Tate Liverpool or more recently the Pompidou centre in Metz, is part of a growing trend in the de-centralisation of national galleries and museums and could transform post-industrial Lens.
The Louvre offers a striking new outpost on the site of an old Lens coal pit, transporting some of its top works to a glass structure in the midst of housing estates. Co-designed by Tokyo-based Sanaa and New York-based Imrey Culbert, with the landscape design by Paris-based Mosbach Paysagistes, Louvre-Lens comprises 300,000 square feet of new construction, he museum consists of five pavilions–low one-story structures, connected at their corners, that grace, enhance and dissolve into the landscape rather than overpower it. Aside from the entrance glass pavilion, the buildings are clad in a reflective aluminum, creating blurred reflections of the surroundings, changing with the scenery, the weather and the position of the person viewing it.
“Our design, reminiscent of the Louvre in Paris with its outstretched wings, was conceived to integrate the building into the park on a single accessible story,” – said Celia Imrey, co-designer with Tim Culbert and principal of Imrey Culbert, New York, “Now that the project is complete, the ‘museum-park’ concept is finally a reality.”Imrey, who recently started her own firm, Imrey Studio, is particularly excited about how the museum and the regional government plan to integrate the local history and culture. The local population of Lens, who has suffered for years from war and the grim mining industry, was invited to participate in the opening festivities.
The museum’s largest space, the opaque Galerie du Temps (Gallery of Time) hosts a semi-permanent exhibition of art works from prehistoric to the 19th century. Shown in chronological order, the exhibition allows for comparisons to be made across cultures–a striking departure from the way art is exhibited in the Paris Louvre. “Inside the museum, we designed the main gallery wings to have natural daylight only from above. There are no windows,” says Imrey, “Between Sanaa in Japan, Imrey Culbert in New York and Paris, ARUP in London, and structural engineers Bollinger and Grohman in Frankfurt, the roof alone is a truly international accomplishment.”
The center glass pavilion, a variation on the pyramid of the Paris Louvre, serves as the main reception area and a public space for the local population and houses a multimedia library, museum store and cafeteria. An Introductory Gallery, accessible via a large staircase, is a place where visitors can peer down onto the museum’s reserves and the studios where artworks are prepared for display. The main storage area is available for public visits by small groups of 15 people per tour. The next pavilion houses temporary exhibitions, and the final houses a 300-seat auditorium.devoting over 75,000 square feet of galleries and visitable storage areas for hundreds of treasures from the Louvre’s collection.
Louvre Lens Museum opens to the public December 12, 2012