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“The Tower” Exhibition and Cultural Center

Trying to Make Beauty with Toughness

Gehry Partners

“The Tower” Exhibition and Cultural Center
By Philip Jodidio -

The Tower, Frank Gehry’s 12 level, 56-m high structure in Arles stands within view of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is quite literally the culminating element of LUMA Arles, whose ambition is “to bring together artists and innovators of the future”. The LUMA Foundation was created in 2004 in Zurich by Maja Hoffmann, an heiress to the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceuticals fortune, with the intention of providing artists with opportunities to “experiment in the production of new work through interdisciplinary collaboration”. The Tower sits at the northern end of an 11-ha site called Parc des Ateliers, formerly occupied by locomotive yards owned by the SNCF, the French national railways. Significantly, the same site was the location many centuries before of a Roman necropolis. Beginning in 2000, the “Les Rencontres d’Arles” photography festival was held there, and in 2007, one building, the 5,000-sq. m Grande Halle, was renovated by the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region and the architectural firm Agence Moatti-Rivière to create exhibition space.

In 2008, the LUMA Foundation signed an agreement to develop Parc des Ateliers, launching LUMA Arles in 2013. Work on a further five large industrial buildings began in 2014 with Les Forges opening in 2014, La Mécanique Générale in 2016 and La Formation in 2018. These renovation projects, mostly destined to art exhibitions and events, were carried forward by the noted New York-based German architect Annabelle Selldorf, together with Le Réfectoire which opened in 2020. Selldorf explains, “With every space in the complex we seek to create a balance allowing the
19th century industrial vocabulary to coexist simply with contemporary purpose, all the while creating well-proportioned spaces with controllable natural light and clear circulation”. The opening of The Tower coincided with the...

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