The Louvre Pyramid (Paris, France)

Louvre Pyramid at Night

The Pyramide du Louvre is a large metal and glass pyramid designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. Along with its three smaller pyramids, the well known Paris attraction serves and the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989 despite a Parisian outcry, the building has become one of the most visited sites in a city filled with incredible architecture and well visited sites,

The Pyramid was commissioned by President of France, François Mitterrand, in 1984, and was constructed entirely of glass window panes held together with metal poles. Reaching a height of 21.6 meters (71 ft) the pyramid is an artistic juxtaposition when viewed against the historic French Renaissance architecture of the original Louvre museum.

The large glass pyramid and the underground lobby beneath it were created because the original main entrance could no longer handle the increasing numbers of  visitors, and it was designed for a museum that attracted 4.5 million visitors a year. Since its construction however, the pyramid has proved inadequate as an entrance because attendance at the Louvre has more than doubled.

Inside the Pyramid
View of the French Renaissance Louvre from inside the Contemporary Pyramid

At the time of construction it seemed as though the entirety of France was against the pyramid. It was so despised that people thought it would bring an end to the Louvre all together. Some thought it was sacrilegious and many said it was equal to building an Egyptian symbol of death in the middle of Paris.

There were many French upset that a Chinese American architect designed the building rather a Frenchmen. This is not to say that there racism was behind people being upset with the design, but there was in fact a little racism for some people being upset with the design. While there are still those that passionately despise the design, it is considered around the world as one of the greatest contemporary architecture buildings ever built. In 2017, I.M. Pei was awarded a 25 Year Award by the American Institute of Architects. The award is presented annually for a design that “has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years, and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance.”

Louvre Pyramid Facts

  • It has been falsely claimed that the glass panes in the Louvre Pyramid number exactly 666.
  • There are 673 panes according to the Louvre, and 689 according to the architect.
  • The pyramid, though much smaller, shares the exact proportions as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • It took 95 tons of steel and 105 tons of aluminum to support the structure.
  • The entrance opened in March 1989, honoring the bicentenary of the French Revolution.
  • The structure was engineered by Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Ltd. of Montreal and Rice Francis Ritchie of Paris.
  • The base surface area of of the pyramid is 1,156 square metres (12,500 sq ft).
  • Each of the four sides of the pyramid are 34 metres (112 ft) long, and it reaches a height of 21.6 metres (71 ft).
  • There are three smaller pyramids surrounding the large entrance, and a total of five pyramids at the Louvre.