With Paris readying for the upcoming COP21 international environmental conference on climate change taking, set for December 2015, it's only fitting that one of the world's most influential and prestigious (and wealthiest) corporations has opened its doors for visitors to enjoy an (environmentally conscious) masterpiece designed by its star architect Frank Gehry: the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
This museum and cultural center, Paris' newest to be built from the ground up, is situated in the city's western green space, the Bois de Boulogne – long favored by Parisian residents both young and old for its urban forests, meandering trails, lakes and abundant flora and fauna.
Nestled in the Jardin d'Acclimatation, the foundation itself is surrounded by a 7.5-acre haven of greenery, incorporating some of these said pathways and leisure areas.
Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris, a Frank Gehry-designed architectural landmark — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
The Architect's Vision
Deriving inspiration from the Fondation Louis Vuitton's setting, architect Gehry and LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, along with input from the City of Paris, imagined a building of spectacular proportions, dimensions and structural engineering.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton building has “overturned the principles of architecture." It was only by employing aerospace engineering principles that Gehry's yacht-like creation was realized.
“Our wish was to conceive a building that would evolve with the passing of the hours and with the changing light, so as to create an impression of the ephemeral and of continual change,” says Gehry of this design.
The choice of materials, guided primarily by an idea for transparency, helps the building to blend seamlessly with its natural environment. The building was designed as a yacht or a vessel. A glass shell covers the body of the building; an assembly of blocks, known as the “iceberg,” gives it its volume and a sense of movement.
Interestingly, the 145,313 square feet of the twelve glass sails are made up of unique panels, developed using innovative technologies. The iceberg itself is covered in 19,000 white sheets of ultra-high performance fiber-reinforced concrete.
The manufacturing technique for the layered glue-laminated wooden beams that support the glass sails was at the heart of the structural design research.
Interior lobby of Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
Effective waste traceability and a reduction in energy consumption were the primary environmental objectives, but designers also chose building materials that reduce environmental impact. There was also an audit and implementation of a carbon assessment plan.
In Paris, there's frequent precipitation. So economical use of rainwater is a natural design element in this climate. Stored and filtered, the collected rainwater will be used primarily to clean the building’s façades and glass roofs. It will also supply the water garden on which the foundation is set and be used to water the planted areas and terraces.
Further using to its advantage the building's geographical location is the air conditioning system.
Geothermal energy serves to heat and cool the foundation's premises using the natural and renewable resources available on-site, namely indigenous ground water tables.
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris' newest museum to be built from the ground up — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
A Family-Friendly Foundation
The Fondation Louis Vuitton has stated that another one of its mandates is to be family friendly. To this end, it offers a Family Pass that has a focus on discovering the wonder of the architectural elements this building embodies. Ask for the special family pass that allows you to take advantage of these cultural activities.
Even the transport to the Fondation Louis Vuitton is green. There's an electric shuttle bus, the Blue Bus, that leaves every 15 minutes from the étoile just at the top of Avenue de Friedland. The stop is clearly marked Fondation Louis Vuitton, and the cost of the 15-minute ride is just €1 each way.
Also not to miss is the on-premise restaurant Le Frank by Executive Chef Jean-Louis Nomicos, which serves lunch and dinner under a life-size, origami-like paper whale mobile hung from the ceiling above the airy restaurant.
Fridays, when the museum is open late until past 10 p.m., it has already become a popular spot for romantic dining.
One more tip for families: Visitors to the foundation get dual admission to the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Paris' oldest amusement park. All visitors with an entrance ticket to the foundation also have access to the Jardin d’Acclimatation for the same day.
And, lastly, in what can only be a gesture of goodwill to the seven generations following ours – in a few decades, the building will become the property of Parisians.