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You’re going to want to visit this epic Frank Gehry-designed arts centre in Provence

The Tower is the stainless steel-clad centrepiece of the new LUMA Arts Centre in Arles

Rosie Hewitson
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Rosie Hewitson
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The Provençal city of Arles is known for two things: art (Vincent van Gogh painted 200 canvases here) and a remarkable number of well-preserved Roman buildings, including a vast amphitheatre which is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

Celebrated Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry pays homage to both aspects of the area’s cultural heritage with his vast new cultural complex in the city. Opening last week after seven years of planning and building works, The Tower is the new centrepiece of LUMA Arles, a 27-acre arts complex founded by collector Maja Hoffman in 2013.

The building draws inspiration from van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, which was painted nearby, and the Alpilles mountain range which lies just northeast of the city. The 56-metre tall structure is covered with 11,000 irregularly-arranged stainless steel panels that create a kind of twinkling effect as they reflect the sunlight.

A large curved pool surrounded by trees, with the LUMA art centre in the background, reflected in the water
Photograph: Rémi Bénali

Just beyond the Roman city walls, the eye-catching new building also references the Arles Amphitheatre, with its circular glass base echoing the design of the historic structure.

The 15,000-square-foot building houses exhibition space, offices, classrooms, an archive, library, artist studios and café. It stands within the Parc des Ateliers, a seven-acre green space conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bureau Bas Smets, which also opened to the public last week.

Already getting plenty of attention from architecture buffs, the gorgeous new arts space is expected to become a major new attraction for the area – deservedly putting Arles on the map for art-lovers holidaying in the south of France. And as for the famous Dutch painter who once lived in the town? We think he’d have found it magni-Vincent. Sorry.

Like your buildings big and flashy? Take a look at this glass-topped ‘music mountain’ coming to the Netherlands.

Plus: Paris is getting loads and loads of new museums.

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