No building better sums up the passions of its patrons than the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech. Its form evokes the restrained elegance that defined all of the late Saint Laurent’s designs; its modernity satisfies Pierre Bergé, his partner in work and life; and its red brick façade echoes the sun-soaked palette of the country that the pair fell in love with.

‘When we first discovered Marrakech in 1966, we were so moved by the city that we immediately decided to buy a house here,’ explains Bergé. Twice a year, in December and June, Saint Laurent would head to Marrakech for two weeks to design his haute couture collections. His Moroccan hideaway also became a legendary den of hedonism, and in 2002, when he retired, Marrakech became his haven. ‘It feels perfectly natural, 50 years later, to build a museum dedicated to Saint Laurent’s oeuvre, which was so inspired by this country,’ says Bergé.

The construction of the building was undertaken by Bymaro, the Moroccan subsidiary of Bouygues Construction, which handled all aspects of the project and managed the various tradesmen, while respecting the detailed technical requirements for the conservation of the collection.

The new museum’s permanent gallery features YSL classics – the pea coat, the Mondrian dress, ‘le smoking’ and the safari jacket – as well as 50 rarely-seen pieces, all loaned by the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. French architect Christophe Martin has designed the displays around themes close to Saint Laurent’s heart, among them Masculine-Feminine, Black, Africa and Morocco.

With its library, auditorium, gallery, bookshop and café, Bergé predicts the museum will become a cultural hub. He is well versed at kickstarting cultural activity in Morocco; in 1980, he and Saint Laurent saved the neighbouring Jardin Majorelle from ruin. The museum’s minimal gardens will, like those of its neighbour, be filled with native succulents, tiled pools and palms.

A marble presentation model of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech. The museum itself has a graphic identity that was handled by Philippe Apeloig, who, in 2010, had designed the poster for the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Petit Palais in Paris.

Bergé knew exactly who he wanted to design the new museum in Marrakech (there will also be a sister museum in Paris, designed by regular Fondation PB-YSL collaborators, architect Jacques Grange and scenographer Nathalie Crinière, which will launch at the same time as the Marrakech one).

Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier, founders of Paris- based Studio KO, opened a satellite office in Marrakech 15 years ago and worked with Bergé on his private house in Tangier. Like Bergé and Saint Laurent before them, the pair went to Morocco on a whim and were also captivated by its colours and textures.

As originally featured in the September 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*222)

RELATED TOPICS: CULTURAL ARCHITECTURE, MUSEUMS