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Landmark At The Louvre: The Pyramid Turns 20

Juxtapoz // Monday, 07 Dec 2009

“When I.M. Pei's glass pyramid was first designed for Paris' ancient, beloved Louvre, critics called it ‘a gigantic gadget’ and ‘a despotic act,’” writes Susan Stamberg for NPR. “Now, two decades later, the French love it — and the gleaming three-story piece of glass geometry has become a destination of its own.

“Before the Louvre was a palace or a museum, it was a medieval fortress. To tamper with its appearance seemed, as some put it, ‘sacrilegious.’

“’It was very controversial,’ says Henri Loyrette, president and director of the Louvre. ‘There was a lot of debate. Many, many people were very hostile.’

“Before the pyramid went up, the Louvre courtyard wasn't much to write home about, Loyrette says. It was essentially a parking lot. Pei's pyramid cleared away the cars and gave Paris a new, sparkling glass heart.

“Loyrette says that when long lines form at the museum's pyramid entrance, "We say to people: 'We have another entrance you could go through.' But no matter — the visitors want to enter the museum through the pyramid.

“More than 8 million people come to the Louvre each year — which takes its toll on the entryway. Loyrette explains that the glass is cleaned once a month by alpine climbers. It's ‘a very special job,’ he says.

“There are still naysayers out there — visitors who gripe that the shiny tip of the Louvre iceberg looks out of place among the museum's majestic old architecture.

“But despite the maintenance headaches and the ongoing controversy, Loyrette thinks I.M. Pei's pyramid is a masterpiece — and one that gave his revered old museum a ‘today’ message.

“’It made the Louvre modern,’ he says.

Read the entire story from NPR online HERE.




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