Luma Arles a tower covered with 11,000 stainless steel panels, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is taking form in the south of France. Gehry’s tower is the centrepiece of the new arts campus which formally launches on 26 June (subject to Covid-19 restrictions); the 15,000 sq. m building will house exhibition galleries, project spaces, seminar rooms, an auditorium and the Luma foundation’s research and archive facilities.
Construction started after the ground-breaking ceremony in April 2014. In anticipation of the landscape work full completion, the Parc des Ateliers schedules its gradual opening in May 2020, until the whole site opening in 2021. Situated adjacent to the city’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Parc des Ateliers serves as the major programmatic and cultural center for Luma’s diverse activities.
Reaching its full 56-metre height, Gehry’s tower will be one of the six industrial buildings undergoing rehabilitation for Luma Arles at a site which was formerly occupied by railroad workshops built in the mid-19th Century. The Luma Arles will function as an experimental contemporary art center, established by Swiss collector Maja Hoffmann, where artists, researchers, and creators from diverse fields collaborate on multidisciplinary exhibitions and projects.
Hoffmann has contributed €150 million (£133 million) to the project, according to ArtNet, through her Luma Foundation, set up to support independent artists. The pharmaceutical heiress to the Hoffmann-La Roche fortune grew up in Arles and continues her family’s patronage of the struggling post-industrial city. The tower is formed of a concrete core with a steel frame. Glass boxes and shining aluminium panels are stacked around this in an irregular formation above a circular glass atrium.
Inside, a vast circular atrium will recall the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, part of the city’s designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Within the campus, the six industrial buildings are renovated by renowned architects, including New York-based Selldorf Architects, and a public park designed by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.
“We wanted to evoke the local, from Van Gogh’s Starry Night [a painting of Arles at night] to the soaring rock clusters you find in the region. Its central drum echoes the plan of the Roman amphitheatre” says Frank Gehry.