Providing a huge exterior area for a museum is an integral part of the Louvre project in the regions. The Louvre-Lens, designed in close coordination between architects and landscapers, presents an unprecedented relationship and dialog between the museum and the landscaped setting surrounding it. This porous relationship between architecture and setting is often reflected in the term «Park Museum». Despite its impressive size, the museum is harmoniously and subtly embedded into its surroundings, the former coal mine taken over by nature, whose fragile beauty and entire breadth have been preserved.
The Architectural Design
The choice of placing the museum on a former mine illustrates the intent of the museum to participate in the conversion of the mining area, while retaining the richness of its industrial
past. The Louvre-Lens site is located on 20 hectares of wasteland that was once a major coal mine and has since been taken over by nature since its closing in 1960. The land presents some slight elevation, the result of excess fill from the mine.
The Japanese architects from SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa wanted to avoid creating a dominating fortress, opting instead for a low, easily accessible structure that integrates into the site without imposing on it by its presence. The structure is made up of five building of steel and glass. There are four rectangles and one large square with slightly curved walls whose angles touch. It is reminiscent of the Louvre palace, with its wings laid almost flat. The architects wanted to bring to mind boats on a river coming together to dock gently with each other. The facades are in polished aluminum, in which the park is reflected, ensuring continuity between the museum and the surrounding landscape. The roofs are partially in glass, reflecting a particular advantage to bringing in light, both for exhibiting the works and for being able to the sky from inside the building. Natural light is controlled by means of a concealment device in the roof and interior shades forming the ceiling. Designed as an answer to the vaulted ceiling, the surface retains in its light the change of seasons,
hours and exhibitions.
The entire structure of 28,000 square meters extends over 360 meters long from one end of a central foyer in transparent glass to the other. The buildings located to the East of the entrance - the Grande Galerie and the Glass Pavilion - primarily house the Louvre’s collections.
To the West of the entrance is the temporary exhibition gallery and La Scène, a vast «new generation» auditorium, whose programs are in direct relation with the exhibitions.
The museum also includes a large, invisible, two level space, buried deep in fill from the site. This space will be dedicated to service functions for the public, but will also be used for storage and logistical functions of the museum. Two independent buildings house the
administrative services, to the South, and a restaurant, to the North, thus establishing a link between the museum, the park and the city.
The Landscape Design
The park is an essential component of the museum’s identity and it helps to make a visit to
Louvre-Lens an enriching and wide reaching experience. It combines a diversity of places and fixtures, to include a forecourt, a clearing, pasture areas, grasslands, terrace, a small lake, a pioneer forest, gardens, paths and an esplanade, serving a variety of functions:
• Orient and guide visitors to the museum. From the station, the various parking lots and the surroundings, featuring no fewer than 11 entrances into the park, will guide visitors along
walking paths to the museum entrances.
• Extend the museum outside of its walls, through cultural and show events such as concerts, screenings and shows. The museum park is set up to be able to greet a large group of people, especially the North esplanade and the meadow to the East of the park.
• Promote the adoption of the museum by all inhabitants of Lens and its region: The park is also intended to be a place for life, relaxation and leisure. A nearby garden, ideal for walks and meeting up with neighbors.
The park will furthermore provide a strong link between the museum, the city and the surrounding territory: This place has been designed to highlight the memory and history associated with the site. The designers used the vestiges of the mining operations on the site,
known as « Shaft number 9 » for inspiration. Thus the paths follow the course of former paths, rails that linked the pits to the station for moving coal dug out of the mine. The historical site and mine entrance have also been preserved and incorporated as benchmark elements of the project.
From the park, the qualities of the entire territory hold the place of honor through view
points over the urban landscape and distant horizons.
Vegetation also received particular attention through the preservation of rare species on site and planting of native species as well as non native plants, intended to set the conditions for a sustainable landscaped environment that infuses the museum with long-term vitality.
Access to the park is free of charge and it will be open outside of museum hours.
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