Finished in 1988, Louvre Pyramid, created by I. M. Pei, a Chinese-American architect, is an enormous glass and metal structure that is now a treasured Parisian landmark. Three smaller pyramids encircle the pyramid in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon) of the Louvre Palace in Paris. It serves as the main entrance to the Louvre‘s majestic Museum.
1. Louvre Pyramid
I. M. Pei, a Chinese American architect, created the huge glass and metal monument known as the Louvre Pyramid. It was finished in 1988 as a part of the broader Grand Louvre project.
Three smaller pyramids surround the Louvre pyramid in the Louvre’s courtyard (Cour Napoléon) of the Louvre Palace in Paris. The Louvre Museum’s main entrance is a huge pyramid.
The pyramid structure was designed by Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Ltd. of Montreal (Pyramid Structure/Design Consultant) and by Rice Francis Ritchie of Paris (Pyramid Structure/Construction Phase). The French construction company VINCI built the distinctive glass pyramid base of Pei, restaurants, an auditorium, exhibition halls, warehouses, a bookstore, and the museum’s underground lobby.
2. The Louvre Pyramid: Why Was It Built?
The Grand Louvre was a 10-year project started by French President François Mitterrand in 1981. The Louvre ran out of floor space as its museum’s collections grew over time and its administration style switched to curatorial techniques, which served as the push for the project.
Over time, the Louvre was compelled to transfer some of its treasures to other Parisian museums, such as the Musée d’Orsay. However, this did little to relieve the strain on the museum’s area and left little room to add cutting-edge amenities like restaurants or restrooms. Aside from that, the museum’s exteriors also need remodeling.
The French Finance Ministry was housed in the museum’s northern wing before being demolished as part of the Grand Louvre project. This would free up space for the Louvre’s renovation and expansion. I.M. Pei intended for the pyramid to serve as the project’s central focus.
3. The Grand Louvre Project
In 1981, François Mitterrand, president at the time, revealed his intentions to convert the Louvre into a museum completely.
As the Louvre’s collection increased over time and outgrew its space, the 10-year project was launched.
The creation of the Pyramid was part of the development, including remodeling the museum and creating additional areas. The task of carrying out the work was assigned to the Etablissement Public du Grand Louvre, and the project was awarded to architect Ieoh Ming Pei.
The primary and most recognizable feature was the glass pyramid in the center of the Cour Napoleon. The Pyramid, inaugurated in March 1989, serves as the museum’s primary exhibition hall entrance.
While exhibition spaces were increased and glazed roofs were added to the interior courtyards, additional display spaces were created. Other additions included an auditorium and public facilities.
The Sackler wing of the project was inaugurated in phase two, and the Egyptian antiquities exhibition area was renovated.
4. Design of the Louvre’s Glass Pyramid
I. M. Pei planned the pyramid so guests might enter it, make their way down into the spacious lobby, and proceed to the major Louvre buildings.
The glass pyramid was intended to give the surroundings a modern structure while enhancing the museum’s traditional character. The inspiration for the glass pyramid, which was created as a central focal point, came from the Pyramid of Giza.
According to records, the main pyramid comprises 70 triangular glass segments, 603 rhombus-shaped glass segments, and metal poles that combine 95 tonnes of steel and 105 tonnes of aluminum. The fourth side, which houses the pyramid entrance, contains 160 glass panes in addition to the 171 glass panes on the other three sides. The pyramid has a base surface area of 1,000 square meters and is approximately 21.6 meters tall.
5. Louvre Museum
The great Louvre, often known as the Louvre Museum, is the most popular museum in the world and a well-known landmark in Paris, France.
It is situated on the right bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement and is a major landmark. Over 72,735 square meters, almost 38,000 artifacts from prehistory to the 21st century are displayed in the museum. In the museum’s basement, ruins of the medieval Louvre fortress can be seen.
7. Louvre Palace
The Palais du Louvre, also known as the Louvre Palace or simply the Louvre, is a famous French palace found on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris. It is situated between the Tuileries Gardens and the chapel of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.
It was once a military facility, but it has previously served a variety of governmental-related duties, including acting sporadically as a royal home between the 14th and 18th centuries.
The Louvre Museum, which opened in 1793, currently occupies most of it. While the region had been occupied for thousands of years, the Louvre’s history began in 1190, when it was first built as a castle to guard the western front of Philip II Augustus’ Wall.
The Lescot Wing, the oldest portion of the Louvre that is still visible above ground, was built in the late 1540s when Francis I began to replace the medieval castle with a new structure that drew inspiration from classical antiquity and Italian Renaissance architecture.
Most of the structure’s components date to the 17th and 19th centuries.
Previously serving as markers for the southern and northern ends of the Tuileries, the Pavillon de Flore and Pavillon de Marsan are now regarded as being part of the Louvre Palace.
8. Reaction and Controversy Concerning the Louvre Pyramid
While the building of the Pyramid contributed to the Louvre Museum’s rise to fame on a national and worldwide scale, attracting millions of visitors, some people were critical of the initiative.
For several reasons, including its expense, Mitterrand’s initiative drew criticism. Over one billion euros was spent on the Grand Louvre project.
It was also criticized that he chose to work with Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei on the project’s design. Many were concerned that handing the duty of updating and refurbishing a significant Parisian landmark to someone unfamiliar with French culture would be impossible to do justice.
Early in 1984, when he revealed his pyramid design to the public, the objections raised only strengthened. Since the pyramid is an old Egyptian death symbol, it was considered unlucky that the pyramid was chosen as the shape of the building.
The pyramid controversy reached its height in 1985, when Michel Guy, the culture minister, founded an association to end it. The idea of modern architecture set against a classic French Renaissance style drew criticism.
Those who criticized the aesthetics claimed that altering the magnificent old French Renaissance architecture of the Louvre was “sacrilegious.” As a dig at Mitterrand’s allegedly megalomaniacal idea, many people started calling the building Pharaoh François’ Pyramid.
One of the rumors about the pyramid is that it has 666 windows, which sparked in the 1980s. Often referred to as “the number of the beast,” 666 is a number linked to Satan. When The Da Vinci Code was released in 2003, the legend reappeared. According to the protagonist of the book, President Mitterrand demanded that 666 panes of glass be used to build the pyramid. Pei’s office refuted this claim and asserted that Mitterrand never stated how many panes there should be.
Despite all the criticism and rumors, the pyramid was widely praised after it debuted and has since become one of France’s most iconic architectural landmarks.
9. Louvre Inverted Pyramid
In front of the Louvre Museum, an underground shopping center in the Carrousel du Louvre is a skylight called the Inverted Pyramid (Pyramide Inversée). It resembles a scaled-down, upside-down version of the Louvre Pyramid.
I.M. Pei, an architect, created the Pyramide Inversée, which was added as a part of the Grand Louvre project’s Phase II government refurbishment of the Louvre Museum.
The inverted pyramid directs visitors to the museum entrance beneath the Cour Napoléon, at the intersection of two major underground passageways beneath the Place du Carrousel. The inverted pyramidal shape of laminated glass points downward toward the floor and is tensioned against a 30-tonne (33-short-ton), 13.3-meter (44-foot) square steel caisson structure. The thickness of the glass that makes up the pyramid is 10 millimeters (0.39 in), but the glass above it at courtyard level, where it must be able to withstand the weight of walkers, is 30 millimeters (1.2 in).
The pyramid’s top is suspended 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) above the ground. The pyramid’s glass panes are joined to one another by stainless-steel crosses that measure 381 millimeters (15.0 in) in length. A frieze of lights illuminates the building at night.
10. Fun Facts About the Louvre Pyramid
Here are 11 fun facts about the Louvre Pyramid.
1. The Five Pyramids in the Louvre
The main entrance to the Louvre is the I.M. Pei Pyramid, which is situated in the courtyard. The building acts as a visible reminder of the importance of the museum’s ancient Egypt collections. The three smaller pyramids are positioned alongside the larger one to create light shafts for the museum’s exhibits.
The fifth and last one is the inverted pyramid, which can be seen while entering the Carrousel du Louvre’s underground entrance. I. M. Pei also created this, and it was finished in 1993.
2. The Difficult Task of Cleaning the Pyramid
Initially, the museum paid climbers to scale the pyramid and clean the glass. Later, in the 1990s, they started utilizing a crane driven up to the Louvre to lift a cleaning machine. A remote-controlled robot was developed in 2002 by Advanced Robotic Vehicles, a Seattle-based business. The robot, known as LL1, uses suction cups to hold itself to the glass while climbs the pyramid on tracks. It has a rotating brush and a squeegee for cleaning the glass. But they still use ropers for various jobs, including descaling the glass.
3. The Other Entrances
Although the Pyramid entrance gave the Louvre museum its initial popularity and is the grand entrance to the main Louvre buildings, there are other entrances to the museum as well. To avoid huge crowds, it may occasionally be best to take alternative routes. The Richelieu Wing is where visitors with single or group tickets can enter. Alternatively, you can enter through the Carrousel entrance, a 1993-opened underground dining, and shopping complex. You have direct access to the museum from here, where you can also see the inverted pyramid created by I.M. Pei.
4. The Chinese-American Architect
The Louvre Pyramid is a striking landmark that may be found in the “Cour Napoléon,” the Louvre’s central courtyard. It is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and represents Paris.
François Mitterrand, who was the French president at the time, ordered it in 1984, and it was finished in 1989. Ieoh Ming Pei (1917-2019), a Chinese-American architect, created the pyramid. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but immigrated to the United States in 1935. He finished several significant construction projects, such as the National Gallery East Building in Washington, DC, and Dallas City Hall in Dallas, Texas.
5. The Creation of Glass From Scratch
I.M. Pei intended the glass of the great pyramid to be completely clear. He wanted the Louvre Pyramid to be a transparent pyramid. Making clear glass was difficult given the faint bluish or greenish tint that glass naturally had.
His goal was realized thanks to Saint Gobain, who, after extensive preparation and months of research, created a unique clear glass from scratch, especially for this project. The team created the 21.5-millimeter extra-clear laminated glass over the course of two years.
Even though nothing has changed in the past 30 years, Saint-Gobin has produced enough pyramid glass to construct two new pyramids in case any glass breaks.
6. The Pyramid Is Too Small
The Pyramid was constructed to widen its footprint to accommodate more tourists.
I. M. Pei did succeed in doubling the size, and the pyramid opened up 650,000 square feet of underground space. As a result, the Louvre could host several guests in 1989. But the venue was too small by 2018 when there were 10.2 million visitors, or more than 25,000 people every day.
7. Pharaoh François Pyramid
The architect and the architecture received the most criticism, but French President Mitterrand wasn’t exempt either. It was jokingly referred to as the “Pharaoh François Pyramid” since he had been hired to construct a pyramid.
8. An Architectural Joke
Mitterrand chose Pei for the Grand Louvre project, bypassing an architecture competition frequently held for significant public projects. This choice “infuriated many,” according to Architect Magazine. Pei’s plan garnered just as much condemnation as Mitterrand’s choice, which was made without consulting anyone else.
According to a news release from the Louvre, the Pyramid “sparked great media discussion and ignited passions on both aesthetic and technical grounds” when the design was first unveiled. But today, the Pyramid, like another controversial building, the Eiffel Tower, is a treasured feature of the Parisian landscape.
9. The Design Honors French Tradition
The Louvre Pyramid follows some French architectural traditions, despite appearing to contradict the museum’s French Renaissance design. In actuality, the nation had a Neoclassical affinity with the Platonic solid, and the Louvre Pyramid, despite not being a tetrahedron due to its square base, refers to this relationship.
According to LeBlanc, pyramidal forms were experimented with as monuments, cenotaphs, or other programs by forward-thinking and inventive Neoclassical builders of the late 1700s, such as Boullée, Lequeu, and Ledoux.
It was noted by the New York Times, upon the Pyramid’s opening in 1989, that it “communicated” with already-existing Parisian landmarks and that the nation’s architectural past was “loaded with references” to designers like these who “relied largely on stark geometric forms, particularly pyramids.”
10. The Inverted Pyramid
The “Carrousel du Louvre” is a shopping area next to the Louvre. Another intriguing structure in this mall is the “Pyramide Inversée,” French for “inverted pyramid.” This pyramid, visible as you leave the museum, is essentially a scaled-down counterpart of the big Louvre Pyramid.
The pyramid is said
11. The Number of the Beast
to have 666 windows, a story that first surfaced in the 1980s. The number 666 is associated with Satan and is frequently referred to as “the number of the beast.”
The Louvre Pyramid is a beautiful place and a major tourist attraction for various reasons. Its architecture and design are stunning, with many fascinating exhibits on each floor.
The Louvre Pyramid, which was inaugurated in 1988, was a game changer for the Louvre Museum. Located at the heart of Napoleon’s court, it has become a must-see piece of Parisian architecture.
The glass pyramid was built as part of the project known as the “Grand Louvre.” The goal of the project was the expansion and modernization of the Louvre Museum. The Louvre pyramid, the museum’s main entrance, was created with the intention of providing more space for visitors to descend into the lobby below.
The glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris is a fascinating blend of classic and modern design. The lobby unites the museum’s three pavilions: Denon, Richelieu, and Sully, and is located just beneath the pyramid.
For a number of reasons, including the cost, the selection of Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, and the structure’s design as a pyramid, the pyramid did not at first receive a favorable response.
Despite everything, today the pyramid has grown to be a well-known Parisian landmark.