I.M. Pei was a Chinese-American architect who is revered as a committed modernist. He built clean, reserved, and sharp-edged structures with the use of geometry and displaying aspirations in monumentality.
After launching a campaign for the renovation of cultural institutions throughout France during the 1980s, French President Francois Mitterrand commissioned architect I.M. Pei for the reorganization of the Louvre in 1983. I.M. Pei redesigned the main court of the Louvre Pyramid with his firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, completing the project in 1989. The project is notable for its stainless steel pyramid and 71-feet-tall glass and supposedly rivals the Eiffel Tower as one of France’s most recognizable architectural icons.
Although The Louvre pyramid has won the most visited museum in the world for many consecutive years now, attracting almost ten million visitors annually, there are facts still unknown.
Here are ten things to clue you in about The Louvre:
1. The Museum Started A Fortress But Served Many Purposes With Time
The building was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century, under King Phillip II to prevent invasions from the north. Beneath the reigns of King Phillip, the city spread far beyond its borders in the 14th century, leading to the development of a new series of defences established in the outskirts of Paris, ceasing the purpose of the Louvre.
Charles V razed the Louvre to make way for a royal residence, but his plans were derailed due to the hundred-year war and it fell into disuse until 1527. By the 16th century, King Francis I began construction on the palace, expanding it over time until the commencement of The French Revolution. It was then converted to a museum by Louis XVI in the year 1793.
2. The Pyramid Was Deemed As An “Architectural Joke”
According to the “Architects Magazine,” when President Francois Mitterrand selected Pei for the Grand Louvre Project renounced from an architecture competition held for large public projects, the decision infuriated many. The criticism received was not for the addition of the museum or the pyramid itself, but the style that the design followed. The unleash of media controversy was not surprising for the architect because the Louvre dated back to the 12th century, and a modernist approach would be less welcomed by the historically captivated Parisians. Most of the people felt that the idea of stainless steel and glass combined on such a monumental scale would aesthetically clash with the classical architecture of the place. The idea of an incongruous presence was intimidating, but eventually, the structure embedded itself in the culture of the city: making it an inseparable entity from the museum and Paris.
3. Functional Countenance Of The Pyramid
The program of The Grand Louvre Project given by President Francois Mitterrand consisted of more than 92,000 square meters of floor space area. According to Pei in Philip Jodido’s book, “I.M. Pei: The Louvre Pyramid,” it was impossible for them to create such an immense area above ground with the historical structure surrounding it, hence they chose to house the area beneath the courtyard. The “Pyramid Form” not only helped the architect create a new grand entrance for the central lobby connecting the separate galleries, but the glass entity acted as a focal point: a symbol for historical and figural importance.
4. The Louvre Was Once Called “Musse Napoleon”
When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power during the 1800s, he had the complex to be renamed in his honour. The museum grew when his grand army swept the continent to overflow the museum with various artistic possessions. Most of the looted treasures comprise a vast Egyptian collection today. After Napoleon’s fall in 1814, all the stolen art (around 5,000 pieces) was returned to their rightful owners in Paris and around the continent, and the museum received its current name.
5. An Iconographic Symbol, The Pyramid Connects With The Traditions Of France
A Newyork Times article dated March 29, 1989, remarks on the construction of the pyramid, and describes it as “the pyramid does not so much alter the Louvre as hover gently beside it, co-existing as if it came from another dimension.” Later in the article, the Louvre Pyramid is said to follow a monumental scale, which in turn collaborates with the urban fabric of the city.
The pyramid is impeccably detailed, light, nearly transparent, and the strict geometric alliance taken over by the architect ties the structure to the Parisian Cityscape.
It is said that the Pei Pyramid stands less as a 20th-century intervention and more as an expression of the commencement of a new era because the architectural history of France is laid with references to the 18th-century architects Bouellee and Ledoux, who relied on blunt geometric forms, including pyramids.
6. Story Of Development Of Its Glass
French manufacturing company Saint-Gobain Glass was commissioned to develop a new glass for the project because Architect Pei wanted the pyramid to have total transparency. The use of clear glass presented difficulty because glass consists of a blue or green tint, which in turn would bring perceptible changes to the palace when looking through it. To prevent the same, months of exhaustive research was undertaken by the team to invent the extra clear laminated glass, with its exceptional mechanical properties and high optical quality. The pyramid consists of about 1800 square meters of glass, 675 rhombi shaped segments and 118 triangles.
7. Ever Thought About The Cleaning Process of Glass
When cleaning small-sized windows is a task, the 71-feet tall pyramid would require some extensive technology to clean-up. It is said that in the early days, mountaineers were hired to clean the glass, but that was not a permanent solution. A robot was invented in the early ’90s to deal with the concern of cleaning. Then in 2002, Advanced Robotic Vehicle-a Seattle based company developed a “Double bread boxed-sexed robot,” which comprises suction cups to stick to the glass, a rotating brush, and is remote controlled.
8. It’s Impossible To Roam The Entire Louvre In “One” Go
When the museum opened 200 years ago, it consisted of 500 pieces of art, but now the museum has grown to comprise almost 3,80,000 articles from which only 30,000 are displayed at a time. The renovation of the museum happened because of its expansion and extensive popularity in the first place. If you took 30 seconds to visit and observe every piece of displayed art (30,000 pieces), it would take 200 days to finish the tour of the museum.
9. There Is More Than One Entrance To The Louvre
Even after accommodating almost 60,000 square meters of space underground to improve visitor reception, the Louvre Pyramid surpasses its growth with increasing popularity. In 2018, the Louvre welcomed 10.8 million people, and the influx was calculated to increase by almost 27,000 every year. For a smooth experience, the museum was reorganized during 2014-16. New entrances, reception areas, better information desks, signages, etc., were added for better visitor flow.
10. Taking Louvre To Other Places
Everyone believes that there is only one Louvre in the world, situated in Paris. But that’s not the case. A subsidiary Louvre has been erected in Lens, a Northern French town in 2012. There were two significant reasons to do so: first, to increase the economic value of Lens, and second, to reduce the crowd a little from the one in Paris.
Another Louvre opened in 2017, this time in Abu Dhabi. Artwork from the original Louvre was leased to the new museum.