Frank Gehry’s twisting tower opens in Arles

Frank Gehry’s twisting tower opens in Arles

With references from Van Gogh to craggy rock outcrops, Frank Gehry’s latest geometric wonder for Luma Arles campus cuts a futuristic form against the historic Arles skyline

The Luma Foundation’s anticipated creative campus in the historic French city of Arles is ready for its grand launch. The complex is throwing open its doors to the public tomorrow, 26 June 2021, featuring a striking central tower designed by Frank Gehry.

Located at the Parc des Ateliers, the 27-acre campus is the brainchild of Swiss art maverick Maja Hoffmann, who established the Luma Foundation in 2004. Since, she has masterminded a network of creative projects in the city, collaborating with a roll call of renowned creative figures – like artist Jorge Pardo on hotel and artist residence l’Arlatan, for instance, and Selldorf Architects on the conversion of four of the campus’ former railway factories into arts spaces. Tom Eccles, Liam Gillick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, and Beatrix Ruf are all named as advisors on the project, which has been ongoing since 2008. The work of more than 100 artists and innovators has already been presented across the city over the last decade, but this summer marks the campus’ official opening.

Aerial view of the site, June 2019
 Luma Arles, Parc des Ateliers, Arles (France)
Aerial view of the site, June 2019 at Luma Arles, Parc des Ateliers. Photography:  Dronimages

The unquestioned architectural centrepiece of Luma Arles – Gehry’s twisting, geometric tower – is finished with 11,000 stainless steel panels, and boasts the American architect’s singular vision for creating otherworldly, gravity-defying structures. The 15,000 sq m space will be home to exhibition galleries, project spaces and the foundation’s research and archive facilities, alongside workshop and seminar rooms. Gehry quotes Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the ‘soaring rock clusters you find in the region’, and ‘the plan of the Roman amphitheatre’ as inspirations for the building’s design. Landscape architect Bas Smets has lent his eye to the surrounding gardens and public park.

Arles has long been a cultural hotspot. It’s a haven for painters chasing the Provencal sunlight on fields of lavender, sunflowers and the Côte d’Azur, while the city’s summer photography festival, Les Rencontres d’Arles, brings more than 100,000 visitors in a typical year. Hoffman’s campus promises to attract a new and global audience, with Luma Arles set to be a collaborative space for ‘artists and innovators of the future’. ‘There is one driving metaphor for Luma at the Parc des Ateliers: that of a living organism,’ says Hoffman. ‘As such the balance between form and function determines its viability. It is about composing a polyphonic score where everything is ordered, yet where everything is possible.’

The opening programme will include work by 45 artists and designers and special new commissions for Luma by international artists, such as Etel Adnan, Ólafur Elíasson, Koo Jeong A, Kapwani Kiwanga, Helen Marten, Pierre Huyghe, Carsten Höller, Philippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija. §

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