Creative Campus: DI Speaker Annabelle Selldorf’s Role in the New LUMA Arles

Selldorf Architects transforms railway structures into exhibition and performance spaces.

Anticipated not only for the major names linked to it, the LUMA Foundation’s new LUMA Arles creative campus encapsulates what architecture and the arts in general should stand for. Launching later this year, the campus encompasses collaborative thinking, the bridging of old and new, the cultivation and support of artistic potential, and spaces that foster engagement and dialogue. 

The LUMA Foundation was established by Maja Hoffmann in 2004 as a leading international philanthropic organisation. It focuses on the direct relationships between art, culture, environmental issues, human rights, education and research. 

LUMA Arles is a 27-acre creative campus at the Parc des Ateliers in the city of Arles. The campus brings together artists and innovators of the future. It is dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to experiment in close collaboration with other artists from a variety of disciplines, with curators and diverse audiences. 

A vision long in the making, the development of this creative campus was led by Hoffmann, who is both Founder and President of the LUMA Foundation. Working with a small team, and with collective input from a core group of advisers, the concept and design of the campus has gradually unfolded. While the purpose and spirit of the project are its heart, it is the design of the campus that has captured the imagination of the arts and architectural communities. 

Work started on the project in 2008. In July 2010, Hoffmann stated: “There is one driving-metaphor for LUMA at the Parc des Ateliers, that of a living organism. As such, the balance between form and function determines its viability. It is about composing a polyphonic score where everything is ordered, yet where everything is possible.” 

Undoubtedly the showpiece of the precinct is a spectacular 15,000 square-meter tower designed by architectural luminary Frank Gehry. The twisting geometric structure finished with 11 000 stainless steel panels will house exhibition galleries, project spaces and LUMA’s research and archive facilities, along with workshop and seminar rooms, an auditorium and café.

Describing his building, Gehry said: “We wanted to evoke the local, from Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ to the soaring rock clusters you find in the region. Its central drum echoes the plan of the Roman amphitheatre.” 

The city of Arles is located in the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in the Mediterranean South of France, between two nature reserves, the Camargue wetlands and the mountain range of Les Alpilles. Arles became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, incorporating its Roman and Romanesque legacy, which includes the monumental Arles Amphitheatre, the Alyscamps and the antique theatre.

Also playing a major role in this multifaceted project is former Design Indaba speaker and advocate for architecture with a purpose – Annabelle Selldorf. In charge of reimagining four of the seven existing railway factory structures that form part of the campus, Selldorf Architects has transformed these into exhibition and performance spaces, with the surrounding gardens and public park designed by landscape architect, Bas Smets. 

The precinct is estimated to launch in June 2021. 

Image credits: Adrian-Deweerdt; Dronimages; Herve Hote


Selldorf speaks on using architecture to make a difference:

Selldorf on architecture’s responsibility beyond the building:

Learn more:

Selldorf on architecture’s responsibility beyond the building:

An architect driven by social responsibility:

Architect and Founder of Selldorf Architects: 

Selldorf to speak at #DI19: