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Despite its echoes of Paris’s architectural past, Frank Gehry’s latest museum project—the Fondation Louis Vuitton, opening this fall in the Bois de Boulogne—is like nothing the city has seen before: muscular and delicate, utilitarian and fantastic, a marriage of cultural ambition and private enterprise. Paul Goldberger looks at the genesis of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s partnership with Gehry, and the triumphant result.
Your first instinct, when you see an extraordinary new building that looks like nothing you have ever seen before, is to try to understand it by connecting it to what you know. And so Frank Gehry’s new Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris, looks like sails, and it looks like a boat, and it looks like a whale, and it looks like a crystal palace that is in the middle of an explosion. Some of the innards make you think of Piranesi, and as you look up the stair tower, monuments of Russian Constructivism, such as Vladimir Tatlin’s fantastic spiral tower, might flash through your mind, just as you could stand in front and from one angle the façade could make you think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beth Sholom Synagogue, his great “Mount Sinai in glass.”[…]