21024 Louvre

Facts

  • LocationParis, France
  • Construction1190 to present Area covered
  • Architectural styleA blend of Renaissance to Modernist

History

The Louvre, in its many different forms, has dominated the city of Paris since the late 12th century. Today it is the most visited museum in the world, renowned for famous works of art such as da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as well as the building’s spectacular Renaissance to Modernist architecture.

The original Louvre was a fortress built in the late 12th century to protect the city of Paris.  The building was continually altered and expanded, before being transformed into a Renaissance-style royal palace in 1546.

When Louis XIV moved his royal court from the Louvre to the newly completed Palace of Versailles in 1678, much of the royal art collection remained at the Louvre.

The transformation of the Louvre into the museum we know today began with the French Revolution. In 1791 the new National Assembly declared that the Louvre should be “a place for bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts." The Louvre Museum officially opened in 1793, giving free public access to a collection that already included works by da Vinci, Raphael, Poussin and Rembrandt. 

The museum’s collection increased throughout the next two hundred years and by the early 1980s, it was clear that a major renovation was needed to improve the displays and provide better amenities for the increasing number of visitors.

Architect

leoh Ming Pei was born in China in 1917 and travelled to the USA at the age of 17 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT. Inspired by the work of Le Corbusier and the new International Style of architecture, he continued to Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where he met Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, two leaders of the European Bauhaus movement.

In 1955, after working for the New York firm of Webb & Knapp on a variety of large-scale structures across the USA, Pei established his own firm, I. M. Pei and Associates. Pei and his team worked on a number of major projects, including the Kennedy Library in Boston, Dallas City Hall in Texas and the new East Building of Washington's National Gallery of Art. It was this last building that would bring him to the attention of those in charge of the Louvre renovation project.

Pei would be the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre, and many in France were skeptical that such a prestigious national project had been given to an architect with a reputation as the 'master of modern architecture'. He himself was acutely aware that 'the history of Paris was embedded in the stones of the Louvre'. Though his suggestions — not least the glass pyramid — initially received much criticism, the renovation was a great success and the Louvre's pyramid would become his most famous structure.

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