The Louvre-Lens is a satellite museum to the Louvre in Paris and was designed by Sanaa, an award-winning Japanese architecture firm. The French town of Lens is located approximately 200km north of Paris.
The museum consists of two buildings, the first, which exhibits artifacts, is formed from a series of long, low-slung walls that fade in and out of view when changing light hits the surface.
The works housed in this museum have been selected from the core collection of the 200-year-old Parisian institution. They are arranged in one vast top-lit hall the size of a football pitch, on freestanding plinths, forming islands and room-like clusters that allow you to walk around the work. It is considered to be a radical curatorial approach.
The walls of the museum are in fact all slightly curved, coupled with concrete floors, metal walls and exposed beams. The brushed aluminum walls, gently warped, create a backdrop of reflections. The concrete floor follows the sloping topography of the original site, a subtle indication that reminds visitors where they are. The exposed steel roof beams, spanning the 25m width of the hall, have been slimmed to a miraculous 12mm thick, which allows natural light to wash over the space.
Opposite the exhibition hall, the same metallic shed is replicated on the other side of the complex. A central entrance pavilion and secondary gallery space, currently arranged as a more conventional suite of rooms. The glazed entrance block contains a bookshop, resource centre and members' area. From the entrance, a spiral staircase, reminiscent of the one in the Louvre pyramid, descends into the lower-levels of the building, where you can look down on the storage racks and see conservation work in progress. It is all part of the attempt to open up the museum to a broader audience, exposing this never-before-seen side of the institution.
The surround landscape connecting these two buildings will one day be a wild meadow, designed by Catherine Mosbach. Here, winding paths follow the original haulage routes across the site, punctuated by grassy worm-like landforms, which serve a dual function as picnic spots and ram-raiding defences.