During his brief residency from 1888 to 1889 in Arles, a small and ancient city on the southern coast of France, the artist Vincent Van Gogh was apparently at his most inspired among its rugged limestone mountains, producing over 300 paintings and drawings that came to define his otherworldly vision. When Frank Gehry was commissioned nearly a century-and-a-half later to create a tower in the city, the architect drew inspiration from Van Gogh’s felt presence in the city to design a building of an equally otherworldly vision.
Luma Arles Tower, a centerpiece of the Luma Arles arts center established by Swiss collector Maja Hoffmann, is a scaly, shimmering beacon on the edge of the city that is nearing completion. The photography studio Atelier Vincent Hecht recently documented the tower in a series that demonstrates the building’s willful incongruity in the densely-clustered city of Arles prior to its scheduled opening in spring of this year.
The photos reveal that, much like Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street in New York City, Luma Arles Tower was envisioned as a sculpture above a pedestal. Reaching a height of 180 feet, the tower’s top half is composed of over 11,000 Rimex Linen metal panels that clad an irregularly shaped concrete and steel frame. It will host a wide range of programs for the arts center once complete, including archives, exhibition and presentation spaces, seminar rooms and a cafe/restaurant.
The tower is the final element of the arts center, a former rail yard adaptively reused by New York-based Selldorf Architects and landscaped by the Brussels-based Bas Smets. Construction began on the site in 2014, a decade after the founding of the Luma Foundation, with the intention of locally supporting and producing experimental projects by artists and allying cultural institutions. The center has remained open during construction and has hosted contemporary exhibitions and community events during the Rencontres d’Arles festival.