Unbelievable Louvre Pyramid Facts You Didn’t Know

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A SPARKLING JEWEL OF PARIS

The Grand Louvre Pyramid is a stunning piece of architecture and the crowning jewel of the majestic Louvre Museum in Paris. It’s a popular tourist attraction in its own right, and one of the 4 most iconic monuments in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral, in my opinion.

The huge pyramid is located in the main courtyard of the Louvre, the largest museum in the world, and is part of the Carrousel Gardens attached to the stunning Tuileries Gardens, one of my favourite parts of Paris.

But have you ever wondered why a large pyramid was placed here? To quench your curiosity about the structure, read on for all the unbelievable Louvre Pyramid facts you didn’t know.

Architect

  • The Grand Louvre Pyramid was designed by Mr Ieoh Ming Pei, a Chinese-born American architect, who had never designed anything in France before. 
  • He didn’t accept the proposal to design the project until 4 months later.
  • Pei was a big fan of glass structures and geometric shapes.
  • He also designed the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and various other buildings around the world. He has been called a master of modern architecture.
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Inverted Pyramid underground, suspended over a small pyramid stone

Design

  • The design of the Louvre Pyramid was planned to modernise the cultural institution, which was in desperate need of a revamp.
  • The Pyramid needed to complement the surrounding architecture and not overshadow the view of the buildings all around.
  • At the same time, the entrance had to stand out and be easy to find.
  • The pyramid was built as part of a major renovation of the Museum lobby and to improve access to the 3 wings below, so as to allow more people to visit.
  • The Grand Pyramid sits above the museum lobby.
  • It is a self-supporting structure with remarkably, no pillars.
  • Water features surround the Pyramid.
  • The Pyramid and other Louvre improvements Pei was commissioned with designing were completed in 1989.

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Purpose

  • The Grand Pyramid functions as a spectacular and welcoming entrance to the Louvre.
  • It gives the entry a very grand and interesting appearance.
  • It’s unlike the entrances of other Museums.
  • The structure is seen from a distance.
  • The Pyramid is beautifully visible at night.
  • It needed to assist with crowds entering the building and flowing down the stairs in an orderly fashion.
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Shape

  • Pei chose a pyramid for the design because it has a square base, and is the most structurally sound and stable shape.
  • A cube shape, amongst others, had also been considered.
  • It was modelled on the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Size

  • It is more than 21 metres high.
  • Has a base surface area of 1000 square metres.
  • The Pyramid actually has the same dimensions as the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
  • The same slope was also given, of 51 degrees.

Glass

  • Glass was used for the pyramid so as not to obstruct the view of the wonderful Louvre building.
  • A special new glass, with no greenish tinge, and high optical quality, was invented especially for the Pyramid.
  • The glass is made of diamond and triangle shapes to give the crystal cut effect.
  • It is 21.5mm thick.
  • There are a total of 673 glass panes on the Grand Pyramid.
  • Steel, aluminium and cables support the glass.
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View from inside the main lobby below the Grand Pyramid

Light

  • The glass provides light to the staircases inside and the Museum below, transforming it from the dark basement it used to be.
  • Sunlight is used to the fullest during the day, as the Pyramid functions as a huge skylight.
  • The Pyramid is illuminated at night.
  • The lights inside the Pyramid come on at sunset.

Opposition

  • The Louvre Pyramid was hated at first, branded as an eyesore and inappropriate for Paris, causing huge controversy.
  • 90% of Parisians were against the building of the Pyramid, deeming it too radical for the classic French style.
  • People thought it clashed with the French Renaissance architecture of the surrounding Louvre building.
  • There were numerous conspiracy theories at the time, as a pyramid is a symbol of Egyptian death.
  • Pei was very unpopular and received much backlash.
  • Once the Pyramid was unveiled, people began to embrace the geometric marvel.
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Night view of the Grand Pyramid entrance

More than one pyramid

  • There are actually 5 pyramids here of varying sizes.
  • The Grand Pyramid has 3 smaller pyramids surrounding it outside, and one Inverted Pyramid suspended inside.
  • This reverse pyramid is slightly smaller than the large one.
  • It is not noticeable from the outside, as it is hanging underground. Some people don’t know it’s there.
  • Located at the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall underground, the Inverted Pyramid is one of the other 4 entrances to the Louvre.
  • From the top, the upside down pyramid looks like a glass plate.
  • It was completed in 1993, after the other pyramids.
  • The 3 small pyramids represent the 3 wings of the Louvre – the Richelieu, Sully, and Denon wings.
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3 Smaller pyramids around the Grand Pyramid

Egyptian theme

  • The Egyptian theme was already present in Paris, with the Obelisk monument located in the Place de la Concorde, which had been transported from Egypt’s Luxor Temple in 1833.
  • The two monuments complement each other on the city’s landscape.

Increase in tourism

  • The Grand Pyramid brought notoriety to the museum.
  • It has attracted a lot more tourists since its inauguration, 30 years ago.
  • The Pyramid helped make the Louvre the most visited museum in the world.
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Inverse Pyramid hidden beneath the roundabout

Axis of Paris

The Axis of Paris starts at the Grand Pyramid. A direct line links the Pyramid with the Inverse Pyramid at the Place du Carrousel roundabout, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (the smaller arch). 

This ‘old axis’ of Paris joins up with the Axe Historique, which is the main axis through Paris. 

This main axis goes all the way through the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and leads down the Champs-Élysée to La Défense business district. A veritable parade of historic landmarks in a row.

The Historic Axis is an almost completely straight thoroughfare of 10 km long, running east-west, sunrise to sunset. Plans are underway to extend the axis, which is also known as the Triumphal Way.

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Axe Historique - credit: wikipedia
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Axe Historique as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Site-seeing route along the Axis

From the Louvre Pyramid you can following the Historic Axis route, a perfect way to see the main sights of Paris, either by walking, if you’re able, or bike riding.

Along this magnificent route you will be able to appreciate the beautiful gardens, ponds, world famous shops and exclusive restaurants, and many historic Parisian sites and monuments. 

If you prefer public transport in Paris there is a metro line which follows the whole route from La Bastille to La Défense, or you can choose to use buses if you wish.

Another fabulous option is to take a batobus on the River Seine, which runs along part of the historic axis route.

I love that the Grand Pyramid reflects both antiquity and futurism. Ancient societies and the future symbolised in one monument. This fusion is also represented in the artwork from around the world and across the ages that are showcased at the Louvre. Check out the amazing art at the Louvre here.

I think many people come to visit the Louvre for its spectacular Pyramids as much as for the art.

The Pyramids offer exceptional subject matter for photographers and instagrammers.

If you wish to visit and stay nearby, check out some accommodation deals below.

Regards

Snazzy Trips

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One thought on “Unbelievable Louvre Pyramid Facts You Didn’t Know

  1. Emma says:

    Despite my love of the old Paris architecture I actually quite like the pyramid. I didn’t know a lot of these facts though, really interesting. I’ve been to Paris enough that I typically wouldn’t go to the Louvre again but I always like to go to the pyramid and take photos, especially at night when it reflects in the pools next to it

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