Sailing into the Bois de Boulogne: Fondation Louis Vuitton

Sailing into the Bois de Boulogne: Fondation Louis Vuitton

June 10 Blogathon

At the northern edge of Bois de Boulogne, Napoléon III’s 2,000-acre construct of public park and former hunting grounds (part of the 16th arrondissement), twelve translucent glass sails billow over the treetops. Commissioned by luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of VMH Moët Hennessey-Louis Vuitton, this new museum replaced an old bowling alley, and was, as all new architecture is in Paris, controversial from the start. But this contemporary art pavilion is, in fact, a masterpiece of engineering and design by Frank Gehry.

Composed of 3,600 panels, the glass wing-like sails soar and curve and seem to flex with an invisible wind (as only a Gehry building can). They also jut out at irregular angles (hence the moniker, “icebergs”), and wrap around a multilevel, 126,000-square-foot museum composed of 19,000 fiber-reinforced concrete panels supported by an intertwined network of steel and wood members. Inside, there are eleven exhibit galleries, an auditorium, restaurant, and bookstore.

Walk around the multi-level rooftop, at a height of almost 160 feet, and you are rewarded with lovely and surprising vistas: A sliver of space between the building’s sides, gives way to a perfect sight line of the Eiffel Tower, and Parisian rooftops emerge in the distance above the Bois de Boulogne. It’s almost like floating in a transparent cloud.

At the entry level, glass walls reveal the Jardin d’Acclimatation (a children’s park) and a reflecting pool. The small, glass-enclosed restaurant, Le Frank, off the entrance seems insufficient for the clientele, but visitors line up to dine nonetheless. Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos creates the cuisine while Gehry-designed fish swim in the sky above the tables.

The multi- and half-level interior spaces are a bit confusing to navigate; the wayfaring signs are not adequate, but the spacious gallery halls are conducive to viewing art. That said, the changing museum exhibits inside are hardly the reason to visit. It’s the structure itself and the views from the top that give you pause.

To get there by metro:
Line 1 to exit Les Sablons. From there you can walk 15-20 minutes or take a Fondation shuttle for €1. The white electric shuttle near the metro exit (with the Fondation name printed in large white letters on the side) departs every 15 minutes from Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue de Friedland.

General admission is €14, but lower for different ages.

For more on the temporary exhibits, various admission fees, hours, and other information: http://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en.html

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