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Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris

Gehry's imagination adds to Paris Skyline

As the imaginative wings of Ghery soar high, his works reflect the fact that the age is just a number as years pass by from childhood to old but never for new ideas; urge for innovations remains endless. The 85 years old; the master artistic living legend Frank Gehry's latest work 'Louis Vuitton Foundation' awed the architects around the world and Paris, the world city of fashion, got another feather in its contemporary cap.  

Frank Gehry extended his architectural vision beyond just brick and mortar. The crystal shaped Louis Vuitton Foundation building is located in the green fields of Jardin d'Acclimation in Bois de Boulogne, a 20 hectare children's amusement park in Paris. Louis Vuitton concept was inspired by the architecture of 19th century's glass and garden that highlights transparency, which is a key element to the design, as Gehry mentions.

Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive of LVMH (Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton S.A); a French luxury goods conglomerate company ,whose personal interest to build a modern and contemporary cultural showcase on public land with private funds was replicated as a 'gift to the city' in his life journey. Bernard stood as a back bone for Frank Gehry's wild imagination in seeing this magnificent edifice getting manifested. Though some architects label Gehry's designs as mere object buildings with no utility, Louis Vuitton Foundation stands apart from conventional buildings as an intelligent structure.

Architecture beyond Boundaries

Frank Gehry, an internationally renowned architect, lives in Los Angeles and over the last forty years, he has designed remarkable buildings primarily in the United States and Europe - Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the DZ Bank Building in Berlin, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the IAC Building, his residence at Santa Monica and the New York Tower were among his few manifestos. He has been teaching at Yale University for the past few years. Driven by a constant quest for innovation and meaning; project after project he pushes back the boundaries of traditional architecture to create powerful and poetic buildings.

The Model

In a bird's view, Louis Vuitton appears as an 'Iceberg', 'Sail', and 'Bird Wing' and so on. The building's 12 curving glass (the white cover layer) are supported by wooden beams helps to define its shape. It combines all of the architect's methods, codes and modes of expression and marks a new step in his work.

In reality, a massive steel columns and glue-laminated timber beams interwoven in a riotous cat's cradle of zigzagging struts and brackets, props and braces. Reaching the summit of the building where a series of roof terraces spill around the twisting protrusions of the gallery skylights. The visitors greeted with an eyeful of stuff, a crazed indulgence of over-engineering's works. It required the development of 30 technical patents to achieve.

The Gesture

The definitive mock up was then scanned to provide the digital model for the project. The architect took a revolutionary approach to the work with glass in particular to bring his vision to life: "Our wish was to conceive a building that would evolve with the passing of the hours and with the changing light so as to create an impression of the ephemeral and of continual change," says Ar. Gehry. This architectural challenge is one of the iconic architectural achievements of the 21st century.

 The touch of the walls inside the museum building is made from custom panels of fiber-reinforced concrete and the heavy structure that supports the great sails; they sit like massive frames and brawny trusses of steel and of glue-laminated larch collide at unlikely angles before your eyes.

The structure is included by 11 exhibition galleries, auditorium, meeting rooms, a cafe, a bookshop and education facilities. The building style directly upholds the tradition of glass pavilions including the Grand Palais, a museum in Central Paris. Yet to get approval for this unique structure to construct was a real task but ultimately France's National Assembly granted the permission.

Exclusive Design tool

Ar. Gehry's creativity calls for constant technical innovation in the industry. Both in the project as well as in design; undertaking the work, the Louis Vuitton venture has overturned the principles of architecture. From the very first stages all of the partners involved in the project learnt how to handle and relied on a unique tool; Digital Project, a 3D software developed by Gehry Technologies based on the Catia tool from the aircraft manufacturer Dassault. This software's exceptional performance made it possible to create the complex shapes imagined by Frank Gehry in extremely close collaboration with the different teams working simultaneously on a joint model.

Team spirit along with real-time coordination of all of the sectors of activity and knowhow to involve in the Louis Vuitton project represented a decisive asset to carry out the exceptional venture. Grouping all of the design offices in one place made it possible to optimise the design studies and foster an indispensable everyday dialogue between the teams, represents a unique development process in France for construction on this scale. Carrying out the project led to the creation of life size prototypes on the site or in the laboratory is also an opportunity for the engineers and architects to rethink and improve working methods both during the preliminary studies and on the site.

Affordable Materials

Unfailing attention was paid to the choice and manufacture of the Louis Vuitton's materials. The glass production represents a decisive innovation. The 13,500 m2 of the twelve glass sails are made up of unique panels developed using innovative technologies. A specific furnace was created to meet the requirements in terms of curvature and slenderness set by the designer. The "iceberg" is itself covered in 19,000 white sheets of ultra-high performance fibre-reinforced concrete known as Ductal. Each plate is manufactured from a mould and a specific template according to its position in the building. Finally, the design of the assemblies and the manufacturing technique for the layered glue-laminated wooden beams that support the glass sails were at the heart of the research undertaken to deliver the project.

Software Played a Vital Role

The museum is covered by glass sails; supported on stainless steel mullions upon a structural steel and glulam main frame. The 12 sails form a cloud like collection of canopies over the museum with numerous curves and angles reflects the surrounding trees and the Paris skyline.

The multiple curved glass surfaces of each sail meant the stainless steel mullion supports had to follow the curves and transom's spacer beams with varied end plate rotations. Eiffage (Industrial Designers) were able to automate the fabrication of these members with the aid of Tekla and BDS VirCon (a global Building Information Modeling, Steel Detailing and Rebar Detailing firm) as the required information could be created from the model to drive these machines.

Maintaining Tolerances

BDS VirCon imported the Digital Project data into Tekla via the industry standard IFC format for all items and in addition, the drawing files for the centre line of all curved items. These files also indicate the change in radius of each member with a point at the start, middle and end of the radius, which they were able to replicate into the Tekla model and onto fabrication drawings.

In addition to the normal CAM and 2D information, BDS supplies 3D drawings of all node blocks, so that during fabrication, the surveying equipment could be utilized in maintaining tolerances required for the project. Files were also supplied for the glulam manufacturer (Glued Laminated Timber) for use in the shaping and drilling of the timber beams.

Core of Concrete and Steel

The museum's structural core consists of a series of solid volumes called icebergs, which support the floating glass canopies covering the entire building. Structurally, the icebergs were designed as concrete and steel frameworks. The facade is covered with 16,000 ceramic tiles. Every single element has a unique geometry in order to follow the smooth lines and various facets of the facade.

Over 2000 aluminum wall panels were designed and fabricated in order to obtain a support structure for the ceramic tiles. Each of these panels follows exactly the outside geometry of the facade surface and contains stiffening elements located underneath every joint between the ceramic tiles. The panels are connected to the steel or concrete structure by means of specifically designed spacers.

Automated Production of Panels

In order to keep the process for the aluminum cladding panels fabricated by Iemants Staalconstructies, acceptable' both economically and technically, Detailer Company POUMA (Engineering and Architects) developed specific software tools which resulted in a highly automated production process.

Due to the complex geometry, building up workshop drawings demanded a specific approach and using scribing lines, CNC-driven export files and control coordinates, the steel contractor was able to assemble the panels so that fabrication tolerances were limited to the minimum. Workshop drawings were fully automated, dimensioning and coordinate-list included.

New Model Server System

Ar. Gehry stands for iconic architectural projects characterized by non-repetitive and complex geometries. In this project,  a new digital project delivery system for the 3D design and data exchange needed for Building Information Modeling collaboration; the model server system was custom developed with version control, concurrent distribution, and tracking have been implemented.

The project's organization chart was mapped onto the model structure to become the work-package plan. This allowed natural mapping to a file structure which connects to versioning tools in the computing cloud. Complex information was easily accessible to all participating teams.

This kind of implementation represents early steps towards a truly cloud or grid-centric approach to AEC collaboration. Beyond the project, these processes provide a sample set of services. The flexible use and development of tools for model collaboration break technological and organizational barriers and help accelerate design cycles.

Construction Excellence

"The Louis Vuitton project exemplifies how BIM can enable design, fabrication and construction excellence," said Andrew Witt, Director of Research at Gehry Technologies in the fall of 2012 issue of the Journal of Building Information Modeling. The project drew from building expertise around the world.

BIM software and cloud based collaboration enabled concurrent design advanced parametrics brought the project to the next level and an automated CNC process completed the fabrication chain. BIM increased clarity and project understanding throughout the project team and supply chain, resulting in faster cycle times and more automated higher-quality fabrication processes.

In recognition, Louis Vuitton was selected as the 2012 recipient of the prestigious BIM Excellence Award given by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Part of the won the Special Recognition in the Tekla Global BIM Awards in 2012 and another was a winner in the UK Tekla BIM Awards in 2013. The whole project won citation for BIM Excellence in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2012.









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