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Luma Arles complex nears completion

Frank Gehry and Selldorf Architects designed the project.

March 06, 2020 |
Aerial of Luma Arles

Photography credits: Hervé Hôte; Lionel Roux, Courtesy of the artists and LUMA Foundation

Luma Arles is a contemporary art center in Arles, France that envisions an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the production of exhibitions and ideas, research, education, and archives. The project balances the original 19th century industrial site with the Center’s new contemporary purpose.

Construction on the project, which repurposes the industrial ruins of a 16-acre rail depot and introduces a new public park, began in 2014. At the center of the complex is a yet-to-be-completed Frank Gehry-designed aluminum clad twisting tower that will reach a height of 183 feet. The tower features 11,000 aluminum panels arranged around a frame of concrete and steel.


Luma Arles Frank Gehry


New York City-based Selldorf Architects, on the other hand, is designing the renovation and conversion of five original structures into two new exhibition facilities, a hotel, a visitor center and cafe, and a dance studio and artists’ residence. Original steel columns and trusses were refinished and skylights were relocated and expanded to create new spaces with natural light and clear circulation.


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Les Forges, the first building in the new complex, was completed in 2015 and includes a new open-air courtyard with a cafe and communal gathering space for presentations and concerts. The repurposed building hosts photography and art exhibitions in flexible gallery space.


Luma Arles Gallery


The Mécanique Générale was the second completed building by Selldorf Architects. Mécanique Générale, now a 48,000-sf exhibition space, was almost a total rebuild of the repair shop for SNCF railcars. The building is top-lit with linear skylights running north/south that provide diffused light throughout the space. The building also includes an artists’ workshop.


La Formation central stair


La Formation was the third completed building, opening in May 2018. La Formation was conceived as an artists’ residence and rehearsal space and draws inspiration from its original use as a SNCF staff training center. A new interstitial level to the original two-story structure was created significantly increasing the overall square footage. The individual artists’ work and living spaces comprise cabin-like bedrooms with structural CLT complemented with a vertically expansive living space. The large communal living room is connected to the surrounding landscape through glass accordion doors along the south facade. The shared artists’ dwelling spaces are connected via a central steel staircase.

The whole site is anticipated to open in 2021.


La Formation artists' residence


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