Studio KO has just revealed the first designs for the Yves Saint Laurent museum in Morocco, a new complex entirely dedicated to the legendary French designer and his work. Situated in Marrakesh, the establishment will house part of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Paris collection.
Headed by Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier, the French architecture firm already has some serious leisure and fashion credentials under its belt – they are also behind works such as the Chiltern Firehouse in London and the Balmain boutique in New York.
The team has had an office in Morocco for 15 years. They had worked privately for Pierre Bergé (co-founder of YSL fashion house and President of the Fondation PB-YSL) in Tangier in the past – an event which led to this commission. ‘It came that, as young architects in Paris, we had an opportunity to get in touch with great clients there in Morocco, where expectations were huge and competitors few,’ they say. ‘It all started with the Hermès (family), the Agnellis, then Pierre Bergé.’
The new building sits next to the famous Jardin Majorelle, which was co-owned by Saint Laurent and where his ashes were scattered after his death in 2008. It will span 4,000 sq m and play host to an impressive 5,000 items of clothing; 15,000 accessories; thousands of sketches; and other assorted objects.
A permanent exhibition area will be complemented by a temporary exhibition space, a 130-seat auditorium, a bookshop, a cafe-restaurant with a terrace and a research library, touching upon themes of literature, botany, Berber culture, poetry, history and, of course, Saint Laurent’s oeuvre.
The architects take inspiration from the North African country for their designs. The new building is a sophisticated, tactile project in terracotta (bricks from a local supplier make up the external skin), concrete, terrazzo and Moroccan stone. There were also sartorial influences.
‘The client gave us – on purpose – an abstract brief, that was not referring to the formal language of Yves Saint Laurent. Pierre Bergé wanted the project to be anchored in both modernity and Morocco,’ explain the architects. ‘We designed the building like one would cut fabric for a dress, by composing curves and lines, in the fashion of the working drawings, white traced on black paper, that we discovered in the designer’s workshop and archives. Its façades would be wrapped it in a brick trim, like a drape, a throw, a cape.’