The Luma Arles complex is an art center established by Swiss collector Maja Hoffmann. This beautiful twisted tower covered in reflective aluminum tiles, designed by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, is already taking shape in Arles, in the south of France.
The opening of this magnificent art center, which will be 56 meters high, has been postponed for the spring of 2020. However, the final shape of this tower already begins to be seen and its metallic irregular structure, inspired by the rugged rock formations that are close to the city, begins to bedazzle and create expectation in the residents and visitors of Arles.
A steel tornado for the arts
The Luma Arles tower is a set of overlapping glass boxes -made with high gloss aluminum panels- that are stacked around in an irregular structure over a circular glass atrium. Inside the structure, Architect Frank Gehry, winner of the Pritzker in 1989, designed a vast circular atrium that will resemble the Roman amphitheater of Arles, which is a World Heritage site.
After looking at Gehry’s design, American architecture critic Frank Miller described it as “stainless-steel tornado,” a project for which the art patron Maja Hoffmann has contributed with 170 million dollars through its Luma Foundation that supports independent artists.
Hoffmann is the pharmaceutical heiress of the Hoffmann-La Roche fortune and as is the case of the city of Arles, she continues with the family tradition to sponsor this post-industrial city in distress that was once home to Van Gogh.
On the other hand, Gehry has become some sort of “lucky architect.” From his work in the rejuvenation of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, he is now considered as having the magic touch to attract prosperity. Looking for the “Bilbao effect,” companies that include Facebook, hire him for remodeling, developing extensions or even designing architectural works.
However, the inhabitants of Arles are not as happy with the building as their benefactor, architectural critics and local entrepreneurs who aspire to benefit from the famous “Bilbao effect.” They think that the Luma Arles Tower is more a twisted tin can that ruins the visual landscape of the city.
So, for now, we will have to wait. Architects know well that the French public is one of the most demanding in the world. The Eiffel Tower, symbol of Paris, was initially seen as a “skeleton” that many Parisians rejected. Today, it’s their pride and the center of many festivities. We’ll see what happens in 2020.