Monday March 29, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Louvre
On this Day:
In 1989, I. M. Pei’s pyramidal entrance to the Louvre opened in Paris.
The Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) is a large glass and metal pyramid designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon) of the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) in Paris. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989, it has become a landmark of the city of Paris.
Commissioned by the President of France, François Mitterrand, in 1984, it was designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei. The structure, which was constructed entirely with glass segments and metal poles, reaches a height of 21.6 metres (71 ft). Its square base has sides of 34 metres (112 ft) and a base surface area of 1,000 square metres (11,000 sq ft). It consists of 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments. The pyramid structure was engineered by Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Ltd. of Montreal (Pyramid Structure / Design Consultant) and Rice Francis Ritchie of Paris (Pyramid Structure / Construction Phase).
The pyramid and the underground lobby beneath it were created because of a series of problems with the Louvre’s original main entrance, which could no longer handle the enormous number of visitors on an everyday basis. Visitors entering through the pyramid descend into the spacious lobby then ascend into the main Louvre buildings.
For design historian Mark Pimlott, “I.M. Pei’s plan distributes people effectively from the central concourse to myriad destinations within its vast subterranean network… the architectonic framework evokes, at gigantic scale, an ancient atrium of a Pompeiian villa; the treatment of the opening above, with its tracery of engineered castings and cables, evokes the atria of corporate office buildings; the busy movement of people from all directions suggests the concourses of rail termini or international airports.”
Several other museums have duplicated this concept, most notably the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The Dolphin Centre, featuring a similar pyramid, was opened in April 1982, by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The construction work on the pyramid base and underground lobby was carried out by the Vinci construction company.
The construction of the pyramid triggered many years of strong and lively aesthetic and political debate. Criticisms tended to fall into four areas: (1) the modernist style of the edifice being inconsistent with the classic French Renaissance style and history of the Louvre; (2) the pyramid being an unsuitable symbol of death from ancient Egypt; (3) the project being an immodest, pretentious, megalomaniacal folly imposed by then-President François Mitterrand; and (4) Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei being insufficiently French to be entrusted with the task of updating the treasured Parisian landmark.
Those criticizing the aesthetics said it was “sacrilegious” to tamper with the Louvre’s majestic old French Renaissance architecture, and called the pyramid an anachronistic intrusion of an Egyptian death symbol in the middle of Paris. Meanwhile, political critics referred to the structure as Pharaoh Francois’ Pyramid. Writing in The Nation, Alexander Cockburn ridiculed Pei’s rationale that the structure would help visitors locate the entrance: “What Pei really meant was that in our unfolding fin de siècle, public institutions need an area … where rich people can assemble for cocktail parties, banquets and kindred functions, to which the word ‘charity’ is attached to satisfy bodies such as the IRS.” Many still continue to feel the harsh modernism of the edifice is out of place.
The pyramid has a total of 673 panes, as confirmed by the Louvre, 603 rhombi and 70 triangles. Three sides have 171 panes each: 18 triangular ones on the edges and 153 rhombic ones arranged in a triangle; the fourth side, with the entrance, has 9 fewer rhombic and 2 fewer triangular ones, giving 160. Some commentators report that Pei’s office counts 689.
However, a longstanding rumor claims that the pyramid includes exactly 666 panes, “the number of the beast”, often associated with Satan. The story of the 666 panes originated in the 1980s, when the official brochure published during construction cited this number twice. The number 666 was also mentioned in various newspapers. One writer on esoteric architecture asserted that “the pyramid is dedicated to a power described as the Beast in the Book of Revelation…. The entire structure is based on the number 6.”
The myth resurfaced in 2003, with the protagonist of the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code saying: “this pyramid, at President Mitterrand’s explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass — a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.” In fact, according to Pei’s office, Mitterrand never specified the number of panes (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Why didn’t the family go to the Louvre? They didn’t have the Monet to get Degas to make the Van Gogh!
Second, a Song:
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor (born 7 November 1996), known professionally as Lorde (pronounced “lord”), is a New Zealand singer-songwriter. Taking inspiration from aristocracy for her stage name, she is known for employing unconventional musical styles and introspective songwriting. Lorde’s music is primarily electropop and contains elements of subgenres such as dream pop and indie-electro.
Born in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna and raised in neighbouring Devonport, Lorde expressed interest in performing at local venues in her early teens. She signed with Universal Music Group (UMG) in 2009 and collaborated with producer Joel Little in 2011 to start recording material. Initially self-released in 2012 for free download on SoundCloud, UMG commercially released the pair’s first collaborative effort, an extended play (EP) titled The Love Club, in 2013. The EP’s international chart-topping single “Royals” helped Lorde rise to prominence.
Her debut studio album Pure Heroine was released that same year to critical and commercial success. The following year, Lorde curated the soundtrack for the 2014 film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and recorded several tracks, including the single “Yellow Flicker Beat”. Her second studio album Melodrama (2017) received widespread critical acclaim and debuted atop the US Billboard 200.
Lorde’s accolades include two Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards, and a Golden Globe nomination. She appeared in Time’s list of the most influential teenagers in 2013 and 2014, and the 2014 edition of Forbes 30 Under 30. In addition to her solo work, she has co-written songs for other artists, including Broods and Bleachers. As of June 2017, Lorde has sold over five million albums worldwide (per Wikipedia).
“The Louvre” is a song recorded by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde for her second album, Melodrama (2017). She co-wrote and co-produced the track with Jack Antonoff, with additional production from Flume and Malay. “The Louvre” is an electropop song which has influences of other genres such as indie rock and ambient music. Its name derives from the Louvre, an art museum in Paris, France. The lyrics talk about Lorde’s honest, lightly-manic analysis of a newly-sparked romance comparing it to a painting hung behind the quintessential works of the Louvre. Reviewers praised the song’s lyrics and production, and it landed on several year-end lists. Its guitar riff was compared to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (1975), and the sound to Taylor Swift’s 1989 (2014) album. The track centers around themes of obsession and infatuation as it continues the narrative established in the previous song, “Homemade Dynamite”. Lorde performed “The Louvre”, with six other songs, as part of a re-imagined Vevo series at the Electric Lady Studios where she recorded most of her album, and at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival. It was part of the set list of her Melodrama World Tour (2017–18) (per Lyrics.com).
Here is Lorde performing The Louvre which includes images from inside the Louvre. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“We had a lot of difficulty in getting the French to accept the pyramid. They thought we were trying to import a piece of Egypt until I pointed out that their obelisk was also from Egypt and the Place des Pyramides is around the corner. Then they accepted it. The pyramid at the Louvre, though, is just the tip.” – I. M. Pei
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky