Louvre begins to migrate 250,000 artworks to archives at new conservation centre

Article: David Styles | Image: Réserve du CCL © RSHP/Joas Souza

Following a construction project which began in 2017, the €60 million Centre de conservation du Louvre is now preparing to accommodate around a quarter of a million artworks which have hitherto been housed at 60 separate sites.

The Louvre’s iconic location adjacent to the Seine in central Paris has always been perfect for attracting tourists, but a nightmare for archiving and storage as the site is highly prone to flooding.

Despite this, at present many works remain housed within the Louvre palace and in various other temporary storage spaces. While the world famous museum does have a flood-risk prevention plan, the current estimated evacuation time would not allow for all the collections to be saved.

The museum’s solution to the problem was to build a vast, purpose built facility in Northern France. Equipped with 18,500 m² of floor space and a further 9,600 m² set aside specifically for storage. All the institution’s works will be in situ at the new base by 2024.

Réserve du CCL © RSHP/Joas Souza

Designed by British architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the site will be one of the largest of its kind in Europe. It is hoped that the centre will strengthen cultural partnerships in the region and preserve the Louvre’s collections on behalf of the French people.

The new spaces will be dedicated to the preservation and conservation of artworks, along with complementary research and study. Areas have also been set aside for tasks such as packing, photographing artworks and undertaking conservation treatment workshops.

Storage areas on the site are divided into six rooms, varying in ceiling height from three to six metres. These rooms are each focused on a different specialism, with large-format organic works, paintings and frames, heavy works, small-format works from the antiquities and modern departments all having rooms dedicated to their conservation.

Courtesy of the high thermal mass of the building, the collections will benefit from stable climatic conditions. Two rooms close to the delivery bay will also be used for anoxic storage and quarantining artworks.

Project timeline

October 2013 – Initial agreement signed for the creation of a conservation and storage facility

July 2015 – Contractors, including architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partner, appointed

May 2017 – Agreement penned between the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Musée du Louvre, Hauts-de-France region and Lens-Liévin urban area to support the project

December 2017 – The cornerstone of the Centre de conservation du Louvre laid

Summer 2019 – Building work completed

Late 2019 – Transfer of reserve collections from at risk Louvre storage spaces begins

The single storey design has been optimised for deliveries, with a 400 m² delivery bay nicknamed the ‘Boulevard of Artworks’ hosting parking spaces dependent on the reason an artwork is arriving on site.

The museum itself is funding €33.1 million of the project, with the European Union pledging a further €18 million. Hauts-de-France region and the nation’s Ministry of Culture and Communication are among the project’s other benefactors.

The Lens-Liévin urban area, in which the facility is situated, contributed €2.6 million to the project by selling land to the State – for use by the Louvre – for a symbolic sum of one euro.