Despite its unconventional shape, the Gehry building is the most museumlike structure on the Luma campus, with huge white cube exhibition spaces, a library and an archive on its lower levels, as well as a cafe, offices, studios, seminar rooms and a viewing terrace. But even here, shimmering white walls of bricks made from compressed local salt on each floor, and panels created from sunflower pulp and concrete in the cafe, are testament to the broadness of Hoffmann’s vision.
One of the pillars of the Luma project is Atelier Luma, a design and research laboratory that takes local products like salt, sunflowers, rice, algae and grass species and transforms them into a variety of building materials and textiles, many of which are used across the site.
“The idea is that artists, scientists and researchers can work together and have unpredictable outcomes,” said Mustapha Bouhayati, Luma’s chief executive. “Disciplines won’t be separate from one another — we’re going to try to bring in new thinking and practices.”
He added: “In France, we say, ‘That’s how it’s done.’ Maja says, ‘Maybe it could be different.’”
Hoffmann’s links to Arles and the surrounding Camargue region run deep. Her father, Luc Hoffmann, an ornithologist, moved the family there when he set up an observation station and conservation center, and her school years were spent in Arles. (He also helped to set up the Van Gogh Foundation in the city in 2010.)
She was about 12, she said, when the Rencontres d’Arles, a photography festival that now draws tens of thousands of visitors each summer, was established. Its ambition and international scope made a huge impression on her.
In 2007, the city of Arles opened the refurbished Grande Halle, one of the large industrial buildings on the now-derelict site of the rail yard, which closed in 1984. By then, Hoffman, who owned a home in Arles, had founded the Luma Foundation (named after her two children).