Fondation Louis Vuitton Is No Cookie-Cutter Structure

Frank Gehry pushed the architectural envelope and Mr. Arnault respected that process.

Fondation Louis Vuitton, in ParisPhoto: ©Iwan Baan
Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris
Photo: ©Iwan Baan
Fondation Louis Vuitton, in ParisPhoto: ©Iwan Baan

Fondation Louis Vuitton
Photo: © Iwan Baan

Note to tourists who have three days to “do” Paris: You don’t even have to go inside the new Fondation Louis Vuitton in order to appreciate it. I’m being perfectly serious. Simply to drive by Frank Gehry’s new building, which opened in the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement, is to experience an unexampled work of architecture. (Whether it’s an appropriate architectural structure to lodge a museum of contemporary art is a question for another critic.)

That Gehry created the Fondation building for Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of Moét Hennessy Louis Vuitton, makes sense for anybody who appreciates Arnault’s particular kind of business acumen. Arnault is recognized as a leader who is sympathetic to artists. In the year 2000 he told the Harvard Business Review, “If you deeply appreciate and love what creative people do and how they think, which is usually in unpredictable and irrational ways, then you can start to understand them.” Think of Arnault as a top dog who understands and loves to play with cats.

This can help explain why he supported some 13 years of brainstorming, daydreaming, doodling, drawing, modeling, planning, building permits, discussion, debate, public displays of emotion, and hard-hat material construction.

It is to the credit of the Fondation Louis Vuitton that the architects and some 200 engineers were given world enough and time to bring this unprecedented structure into its 21st-century existence.

Along the way, a reported 30 patents for new technology were born, and a bespoke furnace allowed for 3,584 laminated glass panels to be rolled out. Each of those panels is unique. Especially in a day and age when easy imitation all the rage, such uniqueness is really something to celebrate.

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