LUMA Foundation - The Tower

Arles, France

Determining wind loads for a unique and varied geometry with an equally unusual double-skin façade

LUMA Foundation is a non profit organization supporting the activities of artists and pioneers in photography, publishing, documentary, and multimedia. A showcase of the Foundation’s work is an art museum called The Tower designed by Frank Gehry in Arles, France. The building houses research facilities, workshop and seminar rooms, artist studios, and presentation spaces.


  • The Challenge

    The Tower posed several challenges when it came to the studies RWDI was asked to perform:

    • Interpreting code for the project, with its distinct edges, angles, and changes in geometry, was virtually impossible.
    • The outer layer of the double-skin façade was made up of 11,000 titanium panels of varying sizes.
    • The gap between the outer and inner layers of the double-skin façade was inconsistent.
    • The museum was comprised of five different substructures.
    • The round cylindrical podium of the structure was entirely glass wall with a long-span roof.
  • Our Approach

    The more detail on wind loading RWDI could provide, the more economical the structure would be to build. To this end, a team of our multidisciplinary experts:

    • Collaborated closely with the design team to understand their specific needs.
    • Leveraged wind tunnel testing to help design The Tower efficiently and cost-effectively, and with an eye to pedestrian comfort and safety.
    • Implemented three-dimensional modeling, considered experimental at the time (2013), to provide results with additional detail that traditional two-dimensional diagrams lacked.
    • Conducted a detailed assessment of the differential pressures for the design of the roof pavers.
    • Conducted additional studies to affirm that the building would be acoustically sound, unimpeded by snow, and would not have air flow issues.
  • The Outcome

    Our testing let the designers know what elements of the building needed to be reinforced so the entire building envelope and structure could be designed with a level of risk consistent with code intent. Ultimately, our efforts helped save both cost and materials, reducing the carbon footprint of the building and resulting in a reduced impact on the climate.