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

Luma Tower imagined by Frank Gehry, January 2021
Luma Tower imagined by Frank Gehry, January 2021.
(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

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 giant twisting tower surrounded by much smaller buildings.

Aerial view of the site, June 2019 at Luma Arles, Parc des Ateliers.

(Image credit: 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. 

Twisting tower sitting on top of circular building.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

Rear view of twisting tower. The circular building below is covered in metallic panes and windows reflecting the evening light.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

Distance view of twisting tower above the terracotta-tiled rooftops of the surrounding buildings.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

Close-up view of the twisting tower showing the many stainless steel panels that mirror the light.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

View of landscaped gardens to the rear of the twisting tower with trees and pond.

(Image credit: Remi Benali)

A large curvy pond reflects the shimmering twisting tower above.

(Image credit: Remi Benali)

Interior of exhibition hall with steel pillars and trusses.

Interior view of La Grande Halle at LUMA Arles, Parc des Ateliers. 

(Image credit: Victor & Simon)

Interior of exhibition hall with white walls and floors and black pillars and trusses.

Interior view of La Mécanique Générale, renovated by Selldorf Architects in 2016.

(Image credit: Hervé Hôte)

Exterior view of long exhibition hall with artwork displayed on the walls at intervals.

Interior view of La Mécanique Générale.

(Image credit: Hervé Hôte)

Large building with pale brickwork surrounded by trees

Exterior view of La Formation, renovated by Selldorf Architects in 2018 at Luma Arles.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)

A brick path leads to an old renovated building with pale brickwork

Exterior view of Les Forges, renovated by Selldorf Architects in 2014 at Luma Arles.

(Image credit: Adrian Deweerdt)



Luma Arles
Parc des Ateliers
33 avenue
Victor Hugo 13200


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.