Numéro: What were your inspi- rations when designing the new Maison Louis Vuitton in Seoul?
Frank Gehry: If you want to know my big inspiration, you’ll have to go back to the 5th century BCE, which is when the Charioteer of Delphi was made. It’s a sculpture I discovered when I was maybe 40 or 45, at the museum in Delphi, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was totally over- whelmed by the idea that over 2,500 years ago an artist was able to make a work that could still touch me to- day, one that had the power to so deeply express sensations and feel- ing through nothing but the material it is made of. That was my starting point: a material that has been shaped in such a way as to be capa- ble of conveying emotion.
Like at your Fondation Louis Vuitton building, you’ve used a wave of glass in Seoul, and yet the context is completely differ- ent to the woodland setting of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.
In Paris, the way I came to use glass was circumstantial. Originally, we weren’t allowed to construct a build- ing the size of the current Fondation in the Bois de Boulogne. But I met the mayor of Paris and convinced him that there was a long tradition in Europe of building with glass in parks. So glass was used there as the solution to a problem of a prac- tical nature. But the problem with glass for that particular commission is that you can’t hang pictures on it. So I imagined combining two build- ings: the first with walls, and the sec- ond which enveloped the first in glass. The constraint of a double skin soon turned out to be an advan- tage: the space in between offered the possibility of showing works out- doors, under the glass, as well as of enjoying splendid views out over Paris and the Bois de Boulogne. And of course afterwards I wanted to carry on exploring the possibilities of glass, particularly in Seoul.
Did the Korean context prompt you to explore other materials?
Initially I envisaged a specific design that responded to its surrounding environment. But buildings change here all the time, and you find every style possible in the neighbourhood. So I allowed myself to do something different that didn’t particularly re- spond to the surroundings. I wanted the building to form a lantern on the street. And then came the idea of showing artworks: exhibiting art in a shop without insulting the art. That was the major challenge.