The Tower, a 15.000 sq Arts Resource Center is the centrepiece of LUMA Arles. It will house research and archive facilities, workshop and seminar rooms, and exhibition spaces.
The central organising element of the new building is a circular glass drum, the shape of which relates to the Roman Arena in Arles. Like the Arena, the scale and clear geometry of the drum reflects the ancient Roman planning influences that set the foundation of Arles. The Romans used civic buildings to organise the densely situated buildings around it.
The drum is both transparent and porous, with walls that open to the surrounding industrial buildings turning it into the central hub of the campus. The building grows out of the centre of the drum and is oriented towards the historic centre of Arles.
The skyline of Arles is populated with towers built from the ancient times to the Middle Ages up to the present. The new building will help establish LUMA Arles as a significant site among the other landmarks of the city.
The façade of the new building takes its inspiration from the limestone peaks of Les Alpilles—the mountain range that rises from the Rhone Valley northeast of Arles. Upon the horizon of the region, the geological formations are a strong natural feature—the jutting peaks stand in stark contrast to the plain of the valley from which they emerge. The impressive forms and textures of the jagged cliffs helped to establish a formal and contextual ambition for the new building.
Les Alpilles have played a significant role in the cultural memory of the region and abroad. They figure prominently in Van Gogh’s paintings from the time he spent in Arles in which he depicted the mountains with visible, segmented strokes emphasising the dynamism and texture of the terrain. The manner in which Van Gogh rendered Les Alpilles influenced the development of the exterior cladding of the building. The design of the tower seeks to capture the movement of discrete elements across a surface.
This manner of breaking down the surface to visible modules became an important theme in the surface development of the building as it reinforced the idea of a “painterly building”. The building changes in appearance as one moves around it, as each of the panels reflects light dierently. Over the course of the day the building will take on the colors and hues of the surrounding context and sky, adding the impression of movement across the facades.
Further reflection on the local architecture of Arles reinforces this concept; best exemplified in the masonry construction of the Roman and Romanesque architecture in the city, such as the limestone panels of the Amphitheatre, the Thermal Baths of Constantine, and the stone roof panels of the cloister of the Church Saint-Trophime.
The texture and weight of these stone buildings serve as both reference and point of departure for the design of the new building. Rendered in stainless steel, the building panels simultaneously reference the tradition of masonry construction of the region and the industrial heritage of its immediate site.