The Louvre Pyramid: history, architecture, and legend
When people talk about the Louvre Pyramid, we think of the transparent architecture in the main courtyard, opposite the Jardin des Tuileries. But there are actually five pyramids throughout the museum.
The exploit of the Pyramid project
The year 1981 and the election of François Mitterand as President of the Republic brought with them many unexpected developments for the Louvre. It heralded the beginning of the Grand Louvre with the annexation of the Richelieu wing, which up until them had been used by the offices of the Finance Ministry. Ieoh Ming Pei was appointed in 1983 to develop a new grand entrance to accommodate the growing number of visitors and to reorganize the museum’s interior. It was he who designed the pyramid, the entrance of which opened in March 1989, symbolically the bicentenary year of the French Revolution.
With the pyramid, the Louvre Museum took on a new dimension, becoming a national and international reference. Yet it was a project that sparked hatred from the general public. François Mitterrand was even suspected of playing a pharaoh by announcing its construction by the Chinese-American architect without organizing a competition, despite his glowing resume as the brain behind a new wing for the Washington National Gallery of Art.
Nowadays, the pyramid is loved by visitors and Parisians alike. It fits perfectly with the palace and has even become a tourist attraction in its own right. The work also involved renovation of the facades and gave the Louvre a real facelift. It is not unusual to see passers-by taking photos in front of the pyramid. More than just an entrance in the palace courtyard, the great pyramid has become a symbol of the Louvre.
The 5 pyramids of the Louvre
The pyramid used as an entrance in the Louvre's courtyard has the exact same proportions as the Great Pyramid of Giza. The choice of this figure also serves as a reminder of the importance of the Egyptian antiquities collection inside the museum, as does the Obelisk in Place de la Concorde not far from there, the other side of the Jardin des Tuileries. At its base, the pyramid measures 116 feet wide and 70 feet high. 95 tons of steel and 105 tons of aluminum support the structure.
The main pyramid is accompanied by three smaller ones. They have been positioned to create light shafts for access to the museum’s collections.
Lastly, the inverted pyramid is the one visible from underground, when you use the Carrousel entrance to the Louvre. In the proper sense, it is an upside down, suspended pyramid.
The glass panes of the pyramids are made up of diamonds and triangles. This mixture creates the triangular form in irregular proportions, which creates the appearance of cut jewels.
The work of the devil?
Designed by I. M. Pei, the great pyramid was hugely unpopular when it was built. As soon as the project was announced, it was accused of disfiguring the architecture. In what direction was the museum headed? Officially consisting of 673 glass panes, it is commonly reported that there are in fact 666. This is the number of the demon and the beast in the Apocalypse. Was the construction of the Pyramid therefore a bad omen announcing the end of the world?
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