The Louvre Museum and Pyramid in Paris, France is one of the most-visited museums in the world with thousands of tourists visiting the iconic landmark every day. It is a crucial tourist hotspot in Paris and a remarkable part of the cityscape of the bustling city. The Louvre Pyramid started functioning in the year 1989. The facility was earlier constructed as a fortress in the 12th century and was a royal residence. It became a public museum in 1793 post the French Revolution.
The structure is formed of glass and metal and designed by Chinese-born architect, the late I. M Pei. The structure connects the three pavilions of the museum- Denon, Richelieu and Sully. The Louvre Museum and Pyramid forms an integral part of the museum and is located in Cour Napoleon courtyard of the museum. The pyramid acts as the primary entrance of the museum.
The Louvre Pyramid originated as a part of the historical project ‘Grand Louvre’. The then President of France, Francois Mitterand, commissioned the Louvre Pyramid in the year 1984. The Louvre Project for the Louvre Museum and Pyramid focused on expanding and renovating the Louvre Museum to a more modern outlook. Construction of the Louvre pyramid ended in the year 1989.
The Louvre Pyramid was formed with a technique called “structural glazing”. In this process, the anchoring glass fixates onto a metal mesh to give shape to massive installations. It exposes the external surface and the glass pyramid is sealed with the framework beneath with sealants. In the case of the Louvre Pyramid, a seal coating of florine carbon lacquer is applied. The structural glazing technique enables natural light to enter the structure, as in the case of the Louvre Pyramid. The pyramid of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid structure measures 71 feet from the base to the top. The structure uses 6,000 solid bars of structural steel and aluminum and the inner frame has 675 diamond-shaped and 118 triangular steel panes embedded in it.
The Louvre Pyramid has three smaller pyramids located nearby. These three structures were added to create a balance to the surrounding scenery and also to provide additional ventilation and illumination.
Interesting facts about the Louvre Pyramid
Created with a Purpose
The Louvre Pyramid was created to serve an essential purpose. When the then President of France, François Mitterrand, commissioned and announced the Louvre Project for the Louvre Museum and Pyramid, it was built for the museum to include the Richelieu Wing of the royal palace. The Richelieu Wing, at that time, acted as the home of the Ministry of Finance. When the project ended, the exhibition space doubled up. That meant the creators had to build a good entrance that covers the massive 92,000 square meters of floor space. The pyramid emerged as the most appropriate shape.
An ‘Architectural Joke’
On the announcement of the Grand Louvre project and selection of Pei as the leading designer of the pyramid, there was a lot of backlash and many people were infuriated by the decision. Also, Pei’s design of the pyramid was criticized a lot on aesthetic, technical and construction grounds. As the pyramid took shape and completed, it emerged as one of the most celebrated tourist hotspots of Paris. Despite that, Captain Bezu Fache referred to the Pyramid as “a scar on the face of Paris” in his film “Da Vinci Code”.
The Louvre Museum and Pyramid are regularly visited by thousands of visitors each day. In 1989, the Louvre saw 3.5 million visitors and in 2018, it saw 10.2 million visitors. That’s a whopping count! The massive turnout of visitors made the architectural marvel look smaller in comparison. Though there has been extension of underground space and structures, the pyramid still seemed smaller!
New Glass to the Structure
One of the most challenging things that Pei faced in constructing the Louvre Pyramid was the choice of glass. As he designed the pyramid to have totally transparent glass, he found it hard to get it. Glass was available with either a faint bluish or a greenish tint, but not a clear one. As such, Pei enlisted glass manufacturing company Saint-Gobain to develop a new glass for the Louvre project of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid. Months into research and testing gave the ‘Diamond Glass’- a 21.5-millimeter extra-clear laminated glass that has high optical features and brilliant mechanical properties.
Cleaning is a task
Maintenance of the Louvre Pyramid is a nightmare! Cleaning the 71-foot sloped structure is undoubtedly a massive challenge. In the early days after its opening, the mountaineers used to scale the massive Pyramid and clean it. However, it was in the 1990s that a robot was built especially for cleaning the Louvre. Later in 2002, Seattle company Advanced Robotic Vehicles created a new robot- a ‘double breadboxed-sized robot’. The robot is controlled by remote control on the ground. However, there are still mini-tasks that regularly require human touch and are impossible for the robot.
Reflects French Tradition
The Louvre Museum and Pyramid are built, keeping in view historical French architectural traditions. According to historians and structural experts, the Louvre Pyramid reflects French love for geometric forms in its architecture.
Pyramid not the only entrance
The Louvre Pyramid is not the only entrance to the Louvre Museum. It was created to accommodate a high influx of visitors and is not the only way to enter the Louvre Museum. Visitors can also enter from Passage Richelieu, located near the Rue de Rivoli across from the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre metro station. The Louvre Museum also has another entrance to the Carrousel du Louvre- an underground entertainment, shopping and dining avenue. This entrance opened in 1993 and gives immediate access to the museum. It is also the location of the famous suspended Inverted Pyramid.
During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte in the 1800s, the ruler asked the Louvre Museum and Pyramid complex to be renamed in his honour. The structure was thereby called ‘Muse Napoleon’ and filled with artistic treasures that Napoleon’s army looted and hid there. However, after Napoleon’s fall in 1814, all the looted treasures were returned to their rightful owners and the structure got its present name. Visitors can still see Napoleon’s room- the ‘Grand Salon’, inside the Louvre Museum. It is a lavish dining room that has rococo detailing and a grand painting looming overhead.
Not in a Day
The Louvre Museum had 500 pieces of art treasure when it first opened to the public around 200 years back. However, with time, the museum grew and so did its collection. Presently, the museum has more than 3-80,000 articles and from there only 30,000 are displayed at one time. As such, it is impossible for a visitor to finish viewing the museum in a day.
Interesting Facts about the Louvre Museum
Four Floors of Art
The Louvre Museum and Pyramid houses an extensive collection of art from around the world. The collection spans across four towering floors on different levels.
Level -1: Lower Ground Floor of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
- French artifacts and sculptures from the 17-18th century
- European artifacts and sculptures from the 6-17th century
- Middle Eastern and Egyptian art forms from 30 B.C.- 1800 A.D
- Glorious Islamic art forms from 7-19th century
- Greek antiquities from 6500- 500 B.C
- Egyptian antiquities from 4000- 30 B.C
Level 0: Ground Floor of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
- French sculptures and artifacts from the 6-19th century
- Middle Eastern antique artifacts from 7500 B.C. – 500 A.D
- Egyptian antique artifacts from 4000-30 B.C
- European sculptures from the 16th-19th century
- Roman antiquities from 100 B.C. to 500 A.D.
- Greek antiquities from 500 to 30 B.C.
Level 1 of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
- Egyptian antique artifacts from 4000- 30 B.C
- Spanish painting forms from the 15-19th century
- British and American paintings from the 16-19th century
- Italian painting forms from the 13-19th century
- Greek antique artifacts from 700- 400 B.C.
- Decorative art forms from the 6- 19th century
Level 2 of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
It includes European painting forms from the 14-19th century.
Oldest collection at 9,000 years
The oldest collection existing in the Louvre Museum is from the Middle East, dating back to 9000 years. One of the arts is a Aïn Ghazal statue, dating back to the 7th century B.C. The artifact was discovered in Jordan in 1985 and is one of the aesthetic pieces of art forms till date.
The Impressive Sphinx
The Egyptian collection at the Louvre is a sight in itself. There is a mummy, ancient sarcophagi, and one of the ‘largest sphinxes outside Egypt.’ It is the Great Sphinx of Tanis, dating back to the 2600 B.C.
The Famous Headless Statue
One of the famous relics in the Louvre Museum and Pyramid is a headless statue ‘Victoire de Samothrace’. It is a marble sculpture dating back to around 220 – 185 B.C. The statue reflects a winged Greek goddess in a Hellenistic style.
Famous Armless Statue
Another impressive relic is the armless statue of Venus de Milo. It is an ancient Greek sculpture that is thought to be inspired by the goddess Aphrodite. The statue dates back to 100 B.C.
Bulletproof Mona Lisa
Perhaps the most celebrated treasure in the Louvre Museum is the Mona Lisa. It is the most recognized painting in the world. An interesting feature of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is that it is protected by bulletproof glass and armed guards. It is because the most treasured art form, ‘The Mona Lisa’, was stolen in 1911 and recovered after two years. Hence, the heavily armed scene!
Louvre Inverted Pyramid
The Louvre Inverted Pyramid of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid is a skylight that exists in the Carrousel du Louvre underground mall. It is an upside down replica of the Louvre Pyramid, just smaller in size. The inverted pyramid is not visible from outside and only the upturned base is visible from the street.
The inverted pyramid highlights the intersection of two primary underground walkways. It suspends from a 30-tonne and 13.3-metre square steel frame and points towards the floor. The tip of the inverted pyramid suspends 1.4 metres above floor level. Below the tip, one will see a stone pyramid that seems to mirror the enormous structure above. The Inverted Pyramid of the Louvre Museum and Pyramid was also designed by architect I.M. Pei and was an installation in the Phase II renovation process of the Louvre Museum. The Inverted Pyramid was completed in 1993.
Similar attractions to the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
In the year 2012, a satellite location of the famous Louvre opened up to the public in the northern French town of Lens. The museum, designed and created by renowned Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, aimed to improve the economy of the region. Five years later, in 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed and created by French architect Jean Nouvel, opened up on Saadiyat Island. The new structure was the result of a controversial agreement that occurred between the France and the United Arab Emirates government. As per the agreement, the Louvre Museum and Pyramid of Paris leased its famous name, certain art from its prized collection, and its experts to the new museum for 30 years.
Things to note while visiting the Louvre Museum and Pyramid
Visitors can visit the Louvre Museum and Pyramid on their visit to Paris. For art lovers, a complete tour of the Louvre can take days to end. Visitors can take museum maps at the entrance to guide them through the collections and prized collections. As the Louvre is one of the busiest tourist places on Earth, visitors should keep the following points in mind:
Getting into the iconic Louvre
The Louvre is also famous for the longest queues at the entrance to the Louvre Pyramid. It takes more than an hour until you can lay your hands on the entrance ticker. As such, to avoid long queues, it is advisable to check out the other entrances to the Louvre Museum and Pyramid- be it the one located at Porte des Lions, the entrance at Rue du Rivoli, the one from Arc du Carousel or the entrance directly from Paris Metro station Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre. Also, visitors should purchase the tickets in advance to avoid long queues.
The entrance ticket to the Louvre Museum and Pyramid costs €15. However, visitors can purchase the tickets beforehand online at €17. This will enable them to enter the Louvre quickly without the hassles of a long queue. Entry for visitors under 18 is free throughout the year and for visitors under 26, free on Friday evenings. Also, the first Saturday of each month from 6- 9.45pm, and on Bastille Day (14 July), entrance is free for all.
Get Guided Tours
The Louvre Museum and Pyramid is an enormous museum with massive collection. It is pretty tough for a visitor to cover the entire Louvre or even the most iconic pieces of art quickly. As such, they can take good guided tours (available in multiple languages) to have a better understanding of the museum and to visit the iconic collections without missing out on any.
The Louvre Museum and Pyramid is a marvel of architecture and art in itself. It is a dream destination on not only every art lover’s list but on each traveler’s bucket list. So, pack your travel bags and catch a glimpse of some of the richest art forms and the magnificent Louvre Museum and Pyramid.