It has been three decades since the launch of the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum. This metal and glass structure is designed by China-born American architect Ieoh Ming Pei. For this reason, it is also fondly referred to as the “I.M. Pei Pyramid”.
It Was Constructed To Serve a Particular Purpose
The Louvre Pyramid is an architectural marvel that earns lots of attention, but it was commissioned by the former French President François Mitterrand for a functional reason. In 1981, he announced the project Grand Louvre, which included the redesign of the Musée du Louvre and the addition. The Louvre Museum went on to incorporate the Richelieu Wing, which then served as the seat of the French ministry. With the completion of the above-mentioned project came the increase in the museum exhibition space and the new Pyramid entrance.
Philip Jodidio penned the book titled “I.M.Pei: The Louvre Pyramid.”
“The program called for more than 92,000 square meters [990,279 square feet] of floor space,” I.M. Pei said in the book.
“It was not possible to imagine creating that much area above ground near the Louvre, thus we needed to put it beneath the courtyard… We experimented with various forms, we even tried a cube or a curved, hemispheric shape. But, if you look at the silhouette of the Louvre, there is no curve, so we had to exclude curves. I concluded that the pyramid was the only shape that was acceptable. It is the most appropriate form.”
The French Termed It an “Architectural Joke”
François Mitterrand selected I.M. Pei for the project “Grand Louvre”. He eschewed an architectural design competition, frequently held for big public projects, in favor of Pei. He personally appointed the architect for the design work. This was a decision which “infuriated many”, as per Architect Magazine. The design of Pei was not better received than the unilateral decision made by François Mitterrand, and criticism abounded.
Pei told Jodidio that “I had fully expected controversy in this instance, and I was not surprised when we were attacked.”
When the pyramid design was first presented, it “sparked much media controversy and unleashed passions on both aesthetic and technical grounds,” as per a press release from the Musée du Louvre.
However, the Louvre Pyramid is now a coveted part of the Parisian landscape, like the other initially-controversial masterpiece named the Eiffel Tower.
It Is Actually Too Small Today
Despite the Louvre Museum’s intention to make visitor reception better with the pyramid and the square feet addition underground, the resulting Grand Louvre space has been surpassed by this museum’s growing popularity.
The Louvre Museum welcomed 3.50 million visitors in 2017, but 10.2 million individuals visited it last year. As it lacked space to fit in such astounding attendance, the museum renovated. The renovation works started in 2014 and ended two years later.
The “Pyramid” Project (2014-2016) was undertaken to improve visitor reception. It improved as a result of the reorganized entrances and the reception areas of the museum. It added two covered information counters built into big, easily noticeable soundproof pillars, redesigned ticketing facilities, improved signage and made other changes. All that effort resulted in doubled access control at the Louvre Pyramid entrance.
It Is Not the Only Entrance to the Louvre Museum
The Pyramid du Louvre was built to provide space for a visitor entrance, but it is not the only means to enter the Louvre Museum. Given the significant visitor count, purchasing tickets online beforehand is recommended. By buying an online admission ticket for a specific day and time slot, people can expect to get into the Musée du Louvre in less than half an hour.
On the arrival at the Louvre Museum, even people with advance tickets will have to join a queue, perhaps in front of this glass structure. However, those with private or group Louvre guided tour tickets can enter via the Passage Richelieu.
Another way in is the underground shopping mall named Carrousel du Louvre. The shopping mall gives direct entrance to the Louvre Museum, and it is also where the Pyramide Inversée lies in a suspended state. No matter which entrance you choose, all these converge underneath the Pyramid du Louvre. This pyramid entrance gives you convenient access to all three wings of the museum.
Cleaning the Pyramid Is a Big Task
If cleaning your windows at home is difficult, then what about a 71-foot glass structure? Interestingly, mountaineers were hired to scale it and clean its glass in the initial days, but an automated technique was required. In the 1990’s period, a robot was made to do the task. Then in 2002, a new model was developed by a company named Advanced Robotic Vehicles. Maneuvered by remote, this robot scales the Pyramid du Louvre on tracks, and it is secured to the structure through suction cups. It has a rotating brush and squeegee.
However, it is not possible to automate some tasks. The water features adjacent to the Pyramid du Louvre deposit a tartar-loaded mist on the glass, plus descaling the glass occassionally is required.