Louis Vuitton's newest venture in China – the first of a series of cultural 'outposts' emanating from Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris – opened this week with a monographic exhibition in Beijing that captures the curious creative complexity of Frank Gehry's work.
Presented, somewhat ironically, in an understated, white box-like annex to the China World Shopping Mall West Wing (home to the Peter-Marino-designed Louis Vuitton Maison), the exhibition offers an intriguing perspective on the 85-year-old architect's trademark design process.
Devised as part of Louis Vuitton's 'beyond-the-walls' programme of events, the exhibition features a complete set of original free-form sketches and architectural models revealing various Fondation design elements – most notably illustrating how the design team progressively reworked clusters of 'volumetric blocks' to define the building's core spaces, their relationship to one another and circulation within the building.
'It starts in the early stages with understanding the programming,' explains Gehry's design partner David Nam. 'That establishes the core functions and creates the basic form of the building before exploring the vocabulary or appearance.'
Further, the show also highlights the investigation of materials that led to Gehry's development of the Fondation's showstopping facade, including the curvaceous glass panels that make up its distinctive fragmented exterior.
Time-lapse video showing the construction process and aerial footage of the unique location in the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Paris, are distinct highlights.
The exhibition's darkened space and soft-lit models 'floating' on black podiums or suspended from the ceiling deliberately create an aquarium-like experience, says the exhibition's co-curator Frédéric Migayrou. 'Works appear as a group of fish or even a floating whale,' he says. 'It is not speaking about the building itself as much as it is about making the body move through it, inside it. It immerses visitors in the brain of Frank Gehry.' Ushers clad in tailored black trousers and crisp white shirts received intensive training on Gehry's architectural theory so as to provide visitors with additional details.
The show will next travel to Tokyo, where it will be held in the Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo from 15 October 2015.