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:
- The modern style of the pyramid doesn’t fit in with the classic French Renaissance style and history of the museum.
- The pyramid is not a suitable image because it is a symbol of death from ancient Egypt.
- The project was nothing more than a megalomaniacal desire for attention by Mitterand.
- 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?