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Ieoh Ming Pei’s Great Pyramid

Despite Louvre’s importance as the greater museum in the world, it must be emphasized that this was not always the case. In fact, in the late 70s, this museum (despite having the finest collections of all the globe) was structurally and spatially poor. In fact, the building was lacking of space and organization, which lead to a poor experience for the visitors. The different expositions and galleries were disjointed and the Richelieu Wing was claimed for the French Minister of Finance to be the building for their offices.

However, in 1981 the art-loving Francois Mitterrand was elected as French President, and Louvre’s luck could finally make a U turn.

Mitterrand decided to double the investment in the arts field and claimed the Louvre to be his top priority. That way, the redesign of the museum and the addition of space started as the ‘Grand Louvre Project’. That way, the president got the art museum the Richelieu Wing back and invited the Chinese-American Ieoh Ming Pei to modernize the Louvre.

And here’s where the Great Pyramid’s idea was born:

The architect decided to place a new entrance in the Cour Napoleón (which is the courtyard enclosed by the buildings that compose the museum). The entrance would be located in the middle of the courtyard, enclosed by a transparent pyramid. Apart from it’s revolutionary esthetic, this pyramid had more purposes: to offer space for the visitor services and offer them a ‘grand’ feeling of arrival and to add lighting to the underground space.

His solution added to the Louvre a network of corridors to access the art collections that summed up more than 92.000 square meters of floor space, doubling the exhibition space to over 60.000 square metres.


Cour Napoleón

Despite being a modern element surrounded by buildings whose origins go back centuries before, it can be seen in this video I took on one of my last trips to Paris that this pyramid blends perfectly with its surroundings. It somehow, matches the aesthetics of the buildings. I like to think that it’s because it reflects the sky and the blue colors melt with the ones from the rooftops of the other buildings.

It’s shocking height and remarkable presence make it difficult to not stare at it. But somehow, even though it’s the first thing that catches your eye when you arrive to the museum, it’s transparence makes it possible for the visitor to admire the historic buildings as well .

Graphic analysis