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Louvre Annex to Open in Lens, France

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Images Courtesy Imrey Culbert/Sanaa

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and their Tokyo-based architecture firm, Sanaa, along with museum-design specialists Celia Imrey and Tim Culbert, and landscape architect Catherine Mosbach, have been selected from among 120 entrants to design the Louvre's first satellite museum. It will be located in the coal mining town of Lens, in northern France.

The jury's final decision was reportedly close. Work under consideration included projects by Zaha Hadid, and Rudy Ricciotti (who is currently designing the Louvre's Islamic Gallery with Mario Bellini). Long-time French Minister of Culture and jury member, Jack Lang, referred to the design as "an anti-Guggenheim [Museum]," and noted that, "this will be the first time that a woman [Sejima] will construct an important public monument in France."

The $140 million project, which includes a landscaped park, sprawls over an 153-acre site that was formerly a mine. Nine one to three story buildings are set into the sloping terrain. Polished steel facades mirror the landscape, while northern light is filtered through glass roofs. Although the plan of palatial Paris Louvre is symmetrical and ordered, the Lens annex is fluid and decentralized. Along with administration and temporary exhibition space, about 500 art works, taken out of the Louvre's storage, will provide a semipermanent collection, to be rotated every three years. The museum is set to open in 2009.

Claire Downey