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The Louis Vuitton Foundation, an extremely complex structure

25 June 2014 - Projects update and handover - France

The Louis Vuitton Foundation building, which has been compared to a cloud, a chrysalis and a sailing ship, will open to the public in Paris in the autumn of 2014. The Foundation's building, a centre of art and culture designed by architect Frank Gehry, was a one-of-a-kind technological challenge. VINCI was selected to build it with the help of its many partners and to coordinate the project.

It is made up of 12 huge glass facades and takes inspiration from the long tradition of glass buildings such as the Grand Palais in Paris as well as the Winter Palace and the Palmarium, the glass and steel structures that graced the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the 19th century and attracted Parisians wishing to explore and stroll in the park.

A work of art in its own right, the Louis Vuitton Foundation building presented a wide range of technical challenges. VINCI rose to them all by leveraging its general contracting capabilities and mixing the expertise of VINCI Construction France,VINCI Construction Grands Projets, and VINCI Energies to organise the work collectively and come to grips with the uniquely complex project.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation at the edge of Paris's Jardin d'Acclimatation park is not easy to describe. Bernard Arnault chose Frank Gehry, the architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney concert hall in Las Vegas, among other buildings, to design a suitable setting for the Louis Vuitton Foundation's contemporary art collection, which is set to open in the autumn of 2014.

The initial wood and paper mock-up of the project appeared to defy the conventions and rules of construction with its inventive volumes, audacious cantilevered overhangs and layered combinations of elements and materials.

Frank Gehry submitted sketches and mock-ups rather than blueprints and the project gradually crystallised, as it went back and forth between the designer and his engineering office, into a scale model and a 3D model.

In terms of construction, the main feature of this project is the lack of a dominant works package. Usually this is the concrete structural work and the other works packages are grafted onto it. Here, the three main works packages – civil engineering, envelope and glass facades (with the first two breaking down into the metal frame and concrete work and the "icebergs" and glass envelopes) – are completely intertwined in terms of structure and construction.

Overall, the structural and envelope design took 1,500,000 hours to complete. After the summary geometry unit was set up, the first step consisted in correcting the reference surfaces, which were initially very complex, in order to be able to build them. This six-month "streamlining" process made it possible to start industrial fabrication of the 3,600 curved elements for the glass facades, the 19,000 fibre cement panels of the facades and their bearing structures. For example, the system for installing the cladding panels made of ultra high performance fibre-reinforced concrete was re-designed to meet the architect's complex surface requirements.

To facilitate dialogue with the project manager, VINCI Construction France decided to use Digital Project, the 3D design tool of Frank Gehry's engineering office – a first – and then set up a Building Information Modeling type organisation – another first – to give the five design offices (of four different nationalities) involved in the structural engineering, and later the suppliers and subcontractors (80 in all), access to the data and enable them to exchange information.

To organise the work, draw up the schedule for the teams and define the resources needed (tooling and lifting), the company again turned to the BIM model to set up a lean management inspired method, the Last Planner System (LPS), which brings together all the people involved in a work segment to orchestrate it in detail within the context of the worksite as a whole. Each work segment in one of the 22 predefined building zones had to accommodate the overall assembly. Starting in May 2012 and for 18 months, the latter was dictated by the assembly of the glass facade elements, which had to be phased according to the structure's ability to support temporary forces.

A third innovation was needed to enable the various tools and systems used by the different design offices to communicate and exchange information with each other: the "collaborative structural platform" developed by the VINCI Construction Grands Projets Design and Structural Engineering department, which won a Management prize in the VINCI 2013 Innovation Awards.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation project adopted an exemplary environmental programme and was selected as a pilot project during the drafting of a new HQE® guidance document dedicated to cultural buildings.

Discover the stages of the construction of the Louis Vuitton Foundation with the video below (French) :

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2014 - opening in the autumn

12 glass facades

3D - use of the BIM technology

1 500 000 hours of work required for the structural and envelope design studies

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Media contacts

Stéphanie Malek
Tel: +33 1 47 16 35 00