The tower is the centrepiece of the 27-acre Luma Arles creative campus in the city of Arles in southern France. Its twisted form, which is clad in 11,000 reflective stainless steel panels, is inspired by the swirling brush strokes of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the local terrain. The crumpled form, punctured by projecting boxy windows, rises from a cylindrical podium in a nod to the Arles Amphitheatre – one of a number of Roman monuments that gained the city the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“We wanted to evoke the local, from Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ to the soaring rock clusters you find in the region. Its central drum echoes the plan of the Roman amphitheatre,” says Gehry of the design.
Aerial view of Luma Arles in June 2019
Gehry’s 15,000-square-metre tower hosts exhibition spaces as well as seminar and research facilities, an auditorium and a cafe for the Luma Foundation, which brings artists together with curators, scientists and innovators to create experimental work.
Swiss art collected Maja Hoffmann set up the Luma Foundation in 2004 and worked with a team of advisors including the curators Tom Eccles, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Beatrix Ruf, and the artist Liam Gillick to develop the campus at Arles. In addition to the tower, four of seven railway factories on the former industrial site have been converted into exhibition and performance spaces by Selldorf Architects, while the surrounding area has been landscaped by Bas Smets.
Luma Arles is set to open on 26 June 2021.