Vincent van Gogh Foundation Rehabilitation Extension in Arles

Design: Fluor Architecture  Location: Arles, south of France

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A completely original artistic project – to summon the genius of Van Gogh through the works of twentieth and twenty-first century artists. A historic place – in the heart of an area painted by the master and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the 2,400 m2 of the Leautaud de Donines mansion, built in the fifteenth century and held since 1924 by the Bank of France. And finally, the technical specifications demanded by the most prestigious museums. Faced with these requirements, this renovation and extension was organized around another major character: the particular light of Arles, so dear to Van Gogh.


Exchanges. The architectural project tapped into the core of the Foundation’s artistic mission: to create exchanges. Starting with the conversations between Van Gogh – (absent from the collection but the light and the site of Arles make him the vector) – and the artists: those of the collection, those invited to expose, and those artists who created works in harmony with the building: Bertrand Lavier with his sliding entrance wall, Raphael Hefti, with his coloured glass sculpture on the roof of the bookshop, and Fritz Hauser, who created the stairwell.




Topographies. Natural daylight, the famous light of Arles, guides the reorganization of exhibition volumes and space (1000 m2), designed with exceptional modularity to best serve the works of art, and in rigorous relationship with conservation requirements. Throughout the visitor’s experience, there are colourful projections on the immaculate walls of the reception area and gift shop, an extension of the glass above the entrance in the courtyard.



Skylight openings in the large exhibit hall transmit a structure created on the rooftop terrace: 20 sheds arranged in five rows of three, each oriented according to the path of the sun. The other rooms and offices are lit by a pre-existing tubular daylight and the whiteness of the limestone that has rediscovered its centrality.



Finally, there is the direct daylight from the open sky on the cascading terraces arranged to sketch out a variety of landscapes: from the intimacy of the first floor to the roof, where the panoramic view is revealed, this view that marks the building in its relationship to the city and its surroundings, and in doing so, as Guillaume Mansart states, its relationship to the history of art.



Jewel-box. To attract, house, protect, and promote the most coveted works of art: the ambition of the Van Gogh Foundation describes the technical stakes of the project. With the support of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which consulted and assisted the general contractor on issues of security, safety and conservation, this renovation incorporated international museum standards to create a jewelled display case able to convince the most demanding and prestigious art lenders.



Connections / Raphael Hefti, To Reflect or Not to Reflect

“The violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red house” by Raphael Hefti . . .

. . . mediates the light of Arles, projected onto the roof of the gift shop and lobby of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, like a disassembled kaleidoscope.

Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

Invited by the Foundation’s Artistic Director, Bice Curiger, the Swiss artist delivered a new instalment in his continued work on the reflection/non-reflection of glass. Weaving a close dialogue not only with Fluor’s architecture but also with new technologies, he put dichroic glass in the spotlight, one of his preferred mediums for playing with opacity and transparency offered by the different layers of oxides.



Arranged in a conscious disorder on the roof of the gift shop and lobby, itself made of glass, the 78 glass plates are suspended above the entry with varying degrees of opacity and reflectiveness. Of all different sizes and colours, they make the light dance on the walls and into the courtyard following the passage of the sun.



By absorbing ultraviolet rays, they also help maintain a temperate climate inside the space.

Sustainability Meets Conservation

Sustainable Design / The ambitions of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation called for excellence in energy performance.



In fact, the proper conservation of works of art requires sophisticated heating, air conditioning, and air filtering systems and controlled humidity and lighting that traditionally consume a lot of energy.

Air tightness tests revealed the need to reinforce the insulation in the existing structure (walls, roof)* and the windows and doors, to install a maximum-efficiency VRV system, and to opt for very low-emissivity glazing, in particular on the glass roof. Another critical system, lighting, uses energy-efficient LEDs (Erco).



Because the precision and coordination of these systems are as important as their intrinsic performance, they are all controlled by a building management system (BMS) and a KNX system (over 500 sensors).

* Other than those of the 15th century mansion.

Review / A style forged from combination

“Born from a complex web of desires, the architectural design of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation . . .

. . . invents a style forged from combination. Organizing heterogeneous spaces, interweaving contemporary works of art and the museographic requirements of conservation, recomposing historical elements and inventing new forms, the architecture multiplies ways of reflecting. The architecture catalyzes intuition and expertise, experimentation and skill. In so doing, it creates a generous space open to all forms of influences and exchanges that consciously take part in a form of timelessness.”



Guillaume Mansart, excerpt from Le batiment de la Fondation van Gogh, February 2014

G. Mansart is an art critic, and co-editor of theDocuments d’artistes project

Vincent van Gogh Foundation Rehabilitation Extension in Arles – Building Information

Location: Arles (13, France)
Mission: Base + EXE + OPC + MOB
Budget: 9 M€ HT
Area: 2 500sqm SHON
Livraison: mars 2014
Maitrise d’ouvrage: Fondation Vincent van Gogh d’Arles
Assistant Maitrise d’ouvrage: MYAMO
Economiste: R2M
BET Fluide: G2i Ingenieurie
BET Structure: Beccamel
Concepteur lumiere: Wonderfulight
BET Lumiere naturelle: Ingelux Consultants

Photography: ⓒHerve Hote and Fluor Architecture

Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

Vincent van Gogh Foundation Rehabilitation Extension in Arles images / information from Fluor Architecture

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