In the 1970’s the centuries-old Louvre Palace in Paris struggled to cope with the rising number of visitors. French president Francois Mitterrand suggested the expansion and modernizing of the Louvre pyramid. He appointed the Chinese born American architect I. M. Pei to integrate the entrances of the 3 different wings of the Louvre and create a structure to decongest the entrances.
To avoid the entrance to the subterranean level appearing like a mere subway station Pei came up with the shape of a pyramid with a glass cladding which would make it least intrusive and also permit light to enter the foyer below.
Much effort was made to make the pyramid as transparent as possible. Though hated by Parisians in the beginning, the Louvre Pyramid has quickly become one of Paris’s most beloved landmarks.
Though small in nature, about 72 feet in height with a base of 116 feet, the pyramid stands out because of its isolation in the courtyard space. It is flanked by 3 smaller pyramids and reflecting pools with modern fountains.
For me, the architectural story is a reflective tale of striking contrasts in history. There is the story of Louvre’s classical European architectural presence and there is the transparent glass-glittering modernization at its most elegance.
It’s so wonderful that this master creator is amongst us and is celebrating his 100th birthday.
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