The building as living organism

Like an irregular, chaotic mass, it emerges from the earth's crust. The tower that completes the Luma Arles cultural center, in the heart of Provence, blends architecture, art, nature, and design under the deconstructivist aegis of Frank O. Gehry

Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
DATA SHEET

Owner: Luma Foundation
Project management: Maja Hoffmann with the support of Sanjiv Gomez and Mustapha Bouhayati Amo: Eric Perez + Louis Marie Dauzat + Frank Anderle Audit and Risk Committee chaired by Werner Schmucki
Architects & Construction manager: Agence Moatti & Rivière, Bureau Bas Smets, Cabinet Lamoureux, C+D, Conception & Cuisine, Gehry Partners, Movveo, Selldorf Architect, Setec Bâtiment, Studios Architecture, Terrell Group, T/E/S/S, TPF Ingénierie
Construction: AGB Bautechnik, All over, Alquier, Assemblage Ingéniérie, Axone Industrie, Bareau Menuiserie Benefficience – Groupe Elithis, Carrillo Carrelage, Citynox, C-Kat, Correze Menuiserie, Crudeli, Decapmax, E.2.J, Eiffage Metal, Etandex, Facade Textile International, Fugro France, GBR Sud Est, General Environnement, Gesop, Groupe Dauphine Isolation, Guintoli, GW INO I.D.F. Plâtrerie, Idzia, Kone, La Serrurerie La Parette, Magnoni, Mediterranee Prefabrication, Melcior, Metalumine, Mineral Expertise, O.F.B, Okeenea, Portíalp, RCR Deco, Reha Sud, Renofors, Rossi Frères, Roux Frères, Santerne Marseille, Sept Resine, Series, Serrurerie Metallerie Service, Snef, Societe Etancheite Services, Tanzi, Techni Moulage, Tonello, Vinci, VIP Plus, Virelec, Wereystenger
Photo credits: Iwan Baan, Rémi Bénali, Adrian Deweerdt, Marc Domage, Hervé Hôte, Joana Luz, Victor Picon, Lionel Roux, Victor&Simon

It captures the power of the creative process in breaking through, taking shape, and unleashing irrepressible natural energy. It is much like magma emerging to shape new geological rock formations. This is how the tower designed by Frank O. Gehry appears, rising inside the Parc des Ateliers in the city of Arles, in the south of France. This is the newest addition to and fulcrum of the Luma Arles contemporary arts center. This bona fide cultural hub was built at the behest of Maja Hoffman, founder of the Luma Foundation, which came here in 2013, turning an abandoned railway yard into a complex with exhibition spaces, artist residencies, and workshops.

Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France

The six great post-industrial architectural works that Annabelle Selldorf‘s New York firm has already restored is joined by the public park designed by the landscape architects of Bureau Bas Smets. The spectacular 15,000-square-meter tower has a twisted, irregular geometry, rendered faceted by 11,000 panels of stainless steel. Maja Hoffman purposely went to “the free-form architect,” whom she considers to be an artist and with whom she worked with the same approach she uses with artists.

“I wanted to create a place that could give the needed space and time necessary for different expressions and practices to dialogue, opening up new paths and perspectives,” says the Swiss art collector and patron. “Luma is a groundbreaking project that addresses artistic worlds, ideas, concepts, and stories, and it moves at its own rhythm with a deep sense of wonder for what the future might be.”

Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
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Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
Luma Arles, France
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The architecture and works of art are not separate but conceived as two ways of creating that nourish one another. This is why art and architecture are well-integrated in the tower and find a common language, including through an exhibition route punctuated with artworks made specifically in particular points in the space which become part of the building’s genetic make-up.

For example, the Atelier Luma section develops the area of natural materials with wall claddings based on algae and salt panels. The different initiatives that have been launched over time, such as the artist and author residences, LUMA Atelier, LUMA Days, Living Archives, exhibitions, and live performances, come into existence in different realms, each contributing to the other and enriching each project.

It’s like an archipelago that renders the entire complex a living organism. It is an ecosystem in the art world that pays homage to its location, the city of Arles, where Vincent van Gogh lived for over two years and painted some of his best-known works.

Luma Arles, France