Art Quiz: The Answer is “A Pyramid”

This was probably an easy question for most of us. We’ve all seen pictures of the Louvre in Paris, so we’re familiar with the pyramid designed by architect I. M. Pei.

Just as there was controversy surrounding Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, so, too, was there controversy over Pei’s design for the Louvre. The project was originally announced by French President Francois Mitterand in 1981. It was necessary to make changes to the Louvre entrance because it was not able to effectively handle the growing number of visitors. This pyramid structure includes a large underground lobby from which visitors can then ascend into the museum itself.

Criticism of the pyramid (which, incidentally, is surrounded by three smaller pyramids) comes from four points:

  1. The modern style of the pyramid doesn’t fit in with the classic French Renaissance style and history of the museum.
  2. The pyramid is not a suitable image because it is a symbol of death from ancient Egypt.
  3. The project was nothing more than a megalomaniacal desire for attention by Mitterand.
  4. The architect, being Chinese-American, was not familiar with French culture and should not have been given the responsibility to update the iconic landmark.

I’ll be honest here. I’ve never been a fan of the Louvre Pyramid. My dislike goes along with the first point, above. To me, the harsh modern design distracts from the beauty of the Louvre. From the beginning, it’s always seemed out of place, to me. No matter how many pictures I see of the pyramid, it still looks like it just doesn’t belong there.

Architect magazine has an excellent feature article on the pyramid — The Louvre Pyramid: The Folly that Became a Triumph

How about you? What’s your opinion on Pei’s Louvre Pyramid?





  1. That first old photo is great.

    I have to agree that the Louvre Pyramid does just look a bit…plonked there. I don’t *hate* it, but i find it a bit “meh”. Admittedly it does look lovely all lit up in that 2nd pic, though!

    This post reminds me of a disagreement I had with an architect boyfriend years ago. He was explaining to me- an appreciator of “ye olde worlde” sorta stuff that sticking ultramodern stuff right next to older buildings was necessary for context. I sorta get that now… but that doesn’t always stop such things from looking a bit crap, imo. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Context? Hmmm… nope. I still don’t get it. It will always look jarring to me. I’ve seen a few aerial shots and maybe it’s all right from that distance, but I don’t think I will ever be a fan of the pyramids.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said
        And this also helped me see more about the slight discomfort I used to feel whenever I would see this pyramid in shows or on the news – it didn’t set right and nice to see you and some of your readers have many reasons why

        The other thing is that if this was conceived in late 70s to 1981 – you would think the pyramid fascination of the earlier 1900s would have waned by that time?? Hmmm

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Meh. I guess I’ve become accustomed to such disparate pairings in architecture that they don’t provoke a sense of outrage in me anymore.

    From a practical standpoint, I love to see older architecture preserved. However, I’ve also physically worked in some older architecture and I can’t say that they age very gracefully with regard to the changing world of technology and the always changing needs of the staff that work in them.

    Then there’s the issue of appealing to the younger audience and/or staff that can be put off by dated looking buildings.

    I fear that an architect can’t make anyone happy these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points, of course. I try to be accepting of the Louvre Pyramid for exactly those reasons, and I think, at night when it’s lighted, it’s probably very pretty. Still… it just doesn’t fit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It fits perfectly! My only suggestion would be to re-design the glass structures on the smaller pyramids in order to have a more densed pattern. In simple terms, smaller pyramids more diagonals.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting how everyone has their own unique point of view, isn’t it. 🙂 Of course, I’ve never been to Paris, have never visited The Louvre, and have never seen the pyramids for myself. Were I to see them, perhaps I would fall in love with them.


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