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Image © Hervé Hôte

Parallelism Between Ideologies

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On one hand is the architect: Frank Ghery, known for his peculiar architectural style that endorses uniqueness and boldness. On the other hand is the client: the Luma Foundation, a philanthropic organisation supporting and promoting the original production of artistic and cultural works. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin; the Luma tower in Arles is a combination of virtuosity and parametric data, characteristics that particularly exemplify what the foundation supports: collaborations between artists and scientists, innovators, curators, researchers, and other cross-disciplinary experts able to bring together art and empiricism. The experimental attitude foundation portrays, it materialises in the 11,000-stainless-steel-panels tower in Parc des Ateliers as the building constitutes a piece in the era of technological construction.
Image © Hervé Hôte
Parametrically designed to evoke the perception of a sculpture, through its curvatures and sinuous shapes the building challenges the rigid form of its material, the passer-by does not see anymore a steel building but a continuous curve. Like a marble block modeled by the artists, Frank Ghery makes us unlearn what is known about a material, challenging our perspective of how we perceive things, a concept Maja Hoffmann, art patron and director of the foundation, has been developing in her Luma project since in inception in 2013. The 56-meter-high building will house exhibition galleries, project spaces, seminar rooms, an auditorium, and the Luma archive; parallelly, Ghery’s project is surrounded by various historical industrial buildings refurbished and renovated to host presentations, installations, and artists’ residences. The diversity amongst the elements of the campus, from Frank Ghery’s centerpiece to the small railway factory, to the large warehouse (all revitalised by American architect Annabelle Selldorf), seems to follow the ideology of the Luma Arles Archipelago: “The institution has evolved not as a homogeneous space but as an open space where new creative forms can be proposed”. The archipelago is the place itself and the place in between, it is a kaleidoscopic ground that does not limit the artists but encourages them with its heterogeneity of spaces. The uniqueness that has accompanied the architect throughout his carrier finds a complementary outlet in Luma’s philosophy.
Image © Hervé Hôte
Frank Ghery, concerning the inspiration for the project, talks about Starry Nights by Vincent Van Gogh who spent part of his life in Arles; at a first glance it seems hard to grasp this concept within the helices of the design, but when looking at the park in its complexity, from afar, the tower panels, with their volutes reflecting the sunlight or moonlight, start resembling Van Goghs’ peculiar painting strokes.
“The institution has evolved not as a homogeneous space but as an open space where new creative forms can be proposed” Luma Foundation
Similarly, when the architect alludes to the Roman and Romanesque past of Arles as inspiration for the design, the picture clears out when seeing the campus in its entirety. And so, we begin to recognise the form of a Roman amphitheater in the base of the tower, a basilica in the warehouse, and the arteries of a city in the network of pathways of Parc des Ateliers.
Image © Hervé Hôte
The vision of the architect is in symbiosis with the site and its history or as a french association founded in 1903, Amis du Vieil Arles (the Friends of the Old Arles), said: “The building will be the town’s heritage of the 21st century”. The tower, with its concepts, ideas, style, and form, does not define itself, but it is defined when confronted with its surroundings. The building’s uniqueness and the former industrial site, are in perfect parallelism within their experimental ideologies.
Gaetano Drago

Gaetano Drago

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