Transparency Revisited – a structural glass approach to Pei’s Louvre entrance

Transparency of a building is a relative notion – relative to contemporary construction, to any supporting structural elements or opaque connections, and to size and scale. The Louvre in Paris is considered one of the most iconic glass structures ever built. Of the four pyramids that I.M. Pei envisioned, two are of significant size and hence relevant as glass structures. The larger, designed in collaboration with structural engineers Nicolet Chartrand Knoll (NCK), utilizes a steel structure to support glass cladding panels. Conversely, the inverted pyramid, designed with RFR, employs the glass panels directly as primary structural elements. Pei explicitly stated that the design objective for the pyramids was transparency: “The scope for the structural engineer, as bluntly expressed by the architect I.M. Pei, was that of building a structure as transparent as technology could reach” . Although RFR delivered on Pei’s request, the size and scale of the larger pyramid was beyond the capabilities of glass technology at the time. 30 years of industry advances in fabrication, engineering, and installation have unlocked the potential to realize large-scale transparent structures. We leverage these capabilities in an alternate design that strives toward Pei’s original mandate of absolute transparency. The result is a case study on the evolution of transparency