The Tower

The Tower FEATURED STORY The Tower

The Tower stands in the heart of the Parc des Ateliers, in the city of Arles, France. This 15,000-square-meter building, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is made up of various multi-purpose spaces, and is clad in 11,000 eye-catching stainless steel bricks.

Text & images by Luna Arles

Built between 2014 and 2021, The Tower opened to the public on June 26, 2021. The building designed by Frank Gehry has a twisted façade decorated with stainless steel bricks. This material, which is typical of the architect’s work, captures and renders all the colour variations in the sky, and gives the building an ever-changing appearance. This aesthetic choice is a nod to the pictorial practice of Vincent van Gogh, who was constantly capturing the shades of the Provençal sky on his canvases during his time in Arles.
The architect also wanted to give the building a mineral touch through its shape and internal structure, which are imbued with the rocky landscapes of the Alpilles, especially the Val d’Enfer near The Tower
Les Baux-de-Provence. He even used elements of the geological vocabulary to characterize certain parts of the building, such as the glazed “faults” that run along the façade and connect the towers.

11,000 316 stainless steel bricks clad the impressive tower structure.
11,000 316 stainless steel bricks clad the impressive tower structure.

Deformed stainless bricks

The façade of the tower is decorated with 11,000 stainless steel bricks deformed by a specific mechanical process. Each of these bricks is unique and has a special number and location on the building.
Grade 316L stainless steel was utilised for the bricks, and a “grained” finish was applied to the surface to provide a texture. The architect was careful to avoid a highly reflective finish, while an unpolished surface would have appeared too dark. Extensive tests were carried out to find the texture which would result in the perfect result. The patented process to deform the bricks remains a secret, with the architect only revealing that it involves a subtle deformation of the bricks, so that each brick is unique, according to Frank Gehry’s request. The 11,000 stainless steel bricks applied to the tower have a combined weight of around 130 tonnes. The bricks were fabricated by Citynox, a company based in Alès in the south of France.

Roman influences

The structure is a commanding presence in the Arles landscape.
The structure is a commanding presence in the Arles landscape.

At the foot of the building is the Drum, a glass rotunda inspired by the Arles Amphitheatre. The Drum offers a unique reception area for visitors to appreciate the richness and diversity of Frank Gehry’s architectural work. Like the Roman arena, the scale and geometry of the rotunda reflect the influence of Roman urbanism on the city.
The 9-story building stands 56 meters high above Avenue Victor Hugo and covers a surface area of 15,000 square meters. It is made up of 4 interconnected towers attached to a concrete spine that houses the elevators and stairs.
Glass boxes serve as windows extending beyond the façade to offer different views of the site and its surroundings.
The energy supply for this building, as well as for the other buildings on the site, will be provided by the centralized cogeneration system using waste vegetable oil installed in Les Forges.

The Tower

About this Featured Story

This Featured Story first appeared in Stainless Steel World April 2022 magazine. To read many more articles like these on an (almost) monthly basis, subscribe to our magazine (available in print and digitally).

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