Louis Vuitton Foundation
A bit of history
The Louis Vuitton Foundation dates all the way back to the 1990s. The conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Henessy) – led by Chief Executive and business magnate Bernard Arnault – wanted to create a company foundation to promote contemporary art and make it more accessible to the general public. The Jardin d’Acclimatation, run by the company since 1995, was identified as the ideal location for a new museum building.
In 2001, Bernard Arnault travelled to Bilbao in search of inspiration from the Guggenheim Foundation and its building designed by Frank Gehry. He arranged to meet with Gehry for an initial conversation just one month later. And one month after that, at the beginning of 2002, the architect was invited to visit the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris to get some ideas for his first sketches. Apparently, he’d filled an entire notebook with ideas by the evening he landed back in Los Angeles.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation was officially founded in 2006 and Gehry revealed his design that same year. The costs were estimated at EUR 100 million. The original time frame was very ambitious, with the museum set to open its doors in 2009.
In 2007, the City of Paris granted planning permission and building work began in 2007/2008. The project was only allowed to go ahead in the Bois de Boulogne because the foundation would be building on the site of an old bowling alley. The permission wouldn’t have been granted otherwise.
The building work took a lot longer than expected. After all, the design was complex and technically challenging. The model even had to be tested in a wind tunnel to make sure that the glass sails could withstand strong gales.
Then there was the small matter of pushback from a significant proportion of the Parisian population. Unsurprisingly really, considering that the reaction was the same before many of today’s landmarks were built (think the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Pyramid). The people of Paris were outraged to start with. There was even a court case in 2011…
The French Administrative Supreme Court brought construction work to a halt, but the French Constitutional Council overturned the decision on the basis that the project was “of sufficient general interest”. Ultimately, all of these delays meant that the building work took around five years longer than originally planned.
With construction finally complete in December 2013, the grand opening was scheduled for October 2014. A Lang Lang concert in the Auditorium marked the momentous occasion. The final building costs have never been revealed but estimates put them somewhere between EUR 500 million and 800 million. That’s around five to eight times more than the original budget!