Much has been talked and written about the glass structure at the courtyard of the Musée du Louvre in France. Of course, everyone knows it is a sight to behold, but not all know the behind-the-scene tales. Designed by Chinese-born American architect, Ieoh Ming Pei, the “Louvre Pyramid” is a jewel of Paris city. This is not just because it is situated in Cour Napoléon of the national museum, but also because it is a hub of all activities. Around the I.M. Pei-designed structure there are some others, slightly smaller in size to the main one.
You do not have to get an entrance ticket to the world-famous museum to see the marvelous architecture of the Louvre. Of course, there is the inverted pyramid in the underground shopping mall named “Carrousel du Louvre”, which also serves as the entrance to the museum. However, when you say “Louvre Pyramid”, most tourists would recognize which one you are referring to. At least, it is not the Pyramide Inversée.
While that pyramid is also a must-photograph thing in the property, the one that is hard to miss is the I. M. Pei marvel. The marvelous pyramid is even featured in a music video by Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z. In the video, the rapper is seen in the premises of the Louvre Pyramid. This video has made the pyramid more popular than it used to be. Are you one of the million viewers of the music video, filmed in 2018 at the Musée du Louvre?
Perhaps the pyramid is as popular as the Eiffel Tower itself. There is some reason for all this build-up – the “Pyramide du Louvre” turned 30 in March 2019, and this is a tribute to the structure that it is.
Do you know it was not always regarded as an iconic landmark? In 1985, there stood a model structure of this pyramid. After François Mitterrand was elected as the French President in 1981, he announced the launch of a massive project intended to “Restore the Louvre’s original purpose.” Of course, the French Ministry occupied a whole wing of what was once a royal palace. The Musée du Louvre had not been restored in years, visitors tricked in via small doors, and the pollution and traffic seems to choke the former Royal Palace at the heart of the French capital.
Put simply, the idea was to transform it into a modern museum. For the project, Mitterand chose I. M. Pei, who is also recognized for his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Who knew the architect would eventually come up with an extraordinary design. Perhaps Mitterand’s leap of faith was such that being part of the process was just duty for the President. There is this old photograph of him and Pei testing glass samples upon the construction site back in 1988 that still do the rounds on social media.
At an event back then, the architect said, “We need to give to the new Louvre a center,” in addition to, “a reception, a generous area with light and with space.” He explained that it need not be a pyramid, but could instead be “a dome, an arch or a cube.” However, he insisted that aesthetically “It is the shape I find most pleasing to the eye.” The word spread and a polemic exploded not just in the media, but in the public too. However, eventually, the powers that be forged ahead with the project.
Then, the Louvre Pyramid was launched in March 1989. 603 diamond-shaped pieces of glass and 70 triangles were installed, one at a time, upon the structure made of 95 kilograms of aluminum and 86 kilograms of steel. The architect was seeking transparency, and it took 48 months for the French manufacturer Saint-Gobain to make the perfect white Pei was seeking.
The project still went beyond just it. The whole building was rethought and renovated. Below the entrance, the architect made what would amount to a junction which led to the different wings of the property.
The President cum Director of the Musée du Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez recently said, “The Louvre is the only museum with a work of art as an entrance.” In 2018, a record number of people visited the museum when on their Paris city tours.
Here is another fun fact for the curios-minded gentlemen and gentlewomen – the inverted pyramid in the shopping mall is where a Biblical figure’s grave resides as per Robert Langdon’s discoveries in the “Da Vinci Code.” Of course, you will get to know more such interesting things about the museum’s assets when you eventually reach here on Paris sightseeing tours.