It takes some creative and smart thinking to successfully pull of modern architecture against historical and older surroundings. One contemporary building in particular that really works with the old and new style is the spectacular glass pyramid on top of one of the world’s most famous museum – the Louvre. This pyramid is recognised all around the world and has become embedded in the Parisian culture.
Completed in 1989 this architectural gem was built by the famous Chinese and American architect Ieoh Ming Pei. Francois Mitterrant who was the French president at the time commissioned the renovation and reorganisation of the Louvre. This advantageous project was done in order to ease the congestion from the thousands of daily visitors at the original entrance on a daily basis. A new grand entrance provided a convenient and spacious lobby space separate from the galleries and also created a great focal point for visitors to start their museum experience. In addition to providing a new entrance to the Louvre, Pei’s design featured a new underground system of galleries. The renovation allowed the museum to expand its collection and provide a solid connection between the wings of the museum.
Pei’s design of the Louvre addition implemented 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments. Three smaller triangles were also built around the original structure to provide light to the space below. For Pei, the glass pyramid provided a symbolic entry that had historical and figural importance and reinforced the main entry.
“Formally, it is the most compatible with the architecture of the Louvre…, it is also one of the most structurally stable of forms, which assures its transparency, as it is constructed of glass and steel, it signifies a break with the architectural traditions of the past. It is a work of our time.” – I.M. Pei
The monumental scale of the pyramid works as a central focal point in the middle of the court providing a great contrast against the historical nature of the existing museum. Rather then detracting from the French renaissance architectural style of the buildings the opaque transparency was designed to compliment and enhance the design of its surroundings. The glass and steel façade of Pei’s pyramid also manages to subtly pay homage to the sloping roofs of the museum.
Like most modern buildings that are added to areas of rich history and cultural significance there were negative reviews to come along with it. Much of the criticism boiled down to the fact the modern style of the pyramid wouldn’t work with the louvre’s classical architecture. People were worried it would conflict look against its Parisian backdrop and look alienated in form. However, as the decades have passed and Paris has modernised Pei’s design it’s regarded with similar significance to that of the Eiffel Tower becoming a cultural icon for the people of Paris. Pei’s pyramid is now inseparable symbol to the museum of Paris will now always mark the image of the louvre.