The louvre

The Louvre just opened a huge conservation center – SURFACE

In 1910, the Great Flood of Paris raised the water level of the French capital eight times; archival footage of the disaster even shows residents cruising down the city’s famous boulevards on improvised boats. With climate change increasing the chances of a similar calamity and torrential rains causing the Seine to flood in 2016, preventive measures have been a priority for Parisian cultural institutions. Leading the pack is the Louvre Museum, the largest and busiest art museum in the world, which sits a stone’s throw from the Seine and houses more than 380,000 objects in its collection.

While the Louvre drew up a flood risk prevention plan in 2002 to protect its assets, its estimated evacuation time would likely not allow for its enormous collection, ranging from sculpture and decorative arts to Egyptian, Greek, Etruscans and be saved. The museum estimates that 150,000 of its artifacts lie below ground level, meaning a rise in the Seine is an impending disaster. During the 2016 floods, for example, the Louvre closed for four days to protect works of art most at risk from damage. Since then, many objects have remained packed to ensure rapid evacuation.

In response to these looming fears, the museum recently inaugurated the Louvre Conservation Center which will safely store a third of its collection. “Above all, it is our duty to preserve this heritage for future collections,” Jean-Luc Martinez, director of the Louvre, said in a statement. “The DNA of the museum, its beating heart, is art. All this helps us to get to know the collections entrusted to us better. He further explains that the mass movement of hundreds of thousands of works is a herculean undertaking. It is the largest of the Louvre’s 200-year history, and perhaps that of museums around the world.

The museum enlisted Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners, led by Pritzker Prize winner Richard Rogers, to design the bunker-like building. Located in the commune of Liévin in northern France, the $120 million facility includes two acres of concrete-clad interior space and six storage sites including low-humidity areas for metallurgy, a studio for photography, workshop rooms and a varnishing cabin. It will also be equipped with a state-of-the-art leak detection system that will immediately notify staff of water infiltration. And thanks to the building’s high thermal mass and underground design, farms will benefit from stable climatic conditions unaffected by the weather – a relief considering that even the slightest changes in air humidity can cause damage. disasters to aging works of art.

According to French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the new facility makes a powerful statement by referencing French military bunkers. “The building is a modern fortress, protecting the art within using both the landscape and state-of-the-art conservation technology,” he said. AD. Located on a draining basement, the building will be doubly waterproof in the event of excessive rain. From a distance, the complex looks like a hilly green park – more than 5,000 plants have been sown nearby. Its gently sloping green roof also creates a seamless connection with the nearby Louvre-Lens by SANAA Architects.

The facility also eliminates logistical headaches resulting from highly decentralized collection. Previously, the museum’s funds were spread over 60 different sites inside and outside Paris. Many of these spaces have not been “optimized for the conservation of artifacts due to issues such as humidity management,” says Brice Mathieu, director of the Louvre Conservation Center. To advise. Accessing funds will also be easy thanks to a state-of-the-art system that makes it easy to transport larger items on a wheeled device. These mechanisms also enable more space-conscious storage solutions inspired by the technology used to stack vegetables high in warehouses.

As well as protecting museum funds, the facility is set to become one of Europe’s largest centers for art research, as well as a home for museum experts, scholars and restorers. “For the first time, some of our canvases that are rolled up for storage due to their size will be studied in workshops,” Mathieu continues, noting that the relocation process has allowed the Louvre to study, photograph and digitize every element of its archives. for the first time. “This is only possible thanks to the Centre’s new facilities and can lead to future exhibitions that otherwise could never have taken place. It is important for us to bring this place to life; we don’t want this place to be just for storage.