Edited by: Gianluca Gamberini

Where: Lens – France

Architecture: Louvre

Architects: SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa)

Photos: Hisao Suzuki, Iwan Baan





The Louvre-Lens museum designed by Japanese architecture agency SANAA is the result of a common desire. It is a meeting of minds involving a governmental decision to carry out a new phase of decentralization.


The choice of placing the museum on a former mine shows 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 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.


Providing a huge exterior area for a museum is an integral part of the Louvre project in the regions. The contours of the building mix exterior with interior, open to the paths of the populations like the work of time, water, vegetation, forming to produce landscaped areas and the work of people in real time.


This is neither a public park nor a peri-urban forest: It is a museum in a regenerating natural park.





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