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Mirror effect

The blade building

Visitors walking through the atrium of the Museum of Fine Art might well be a little perplexed. On the other side of the courtyard stands a large building, as smooth as a mirror. What is this strange edifice?

For the answer, we need to go back to the 1980s. One century after the museum opened, the collections had little room to breathe. No matter: Lille city council ran a major architecture competition, won by Jean-MarcIbos and Myrto Vitart. Their list of specifications was extensive: they had to create a building to house all the administrative departments.

But to build this annex, the architects had to overcome a major obstacle. The plot on which the new building was to stand is absolutely tiny! Why? It is located next to land that does not belong to the museum, and the architects could not encroach upon it. That explains the narrow shape of the building – it is barely seven metres wide. Its slimline appearance has earned it the nickname of the "blade building".

The other key feature is the material. It is completely clad in a glass envelope which, like an enormous mirror, perfectly reflects the museum's rear façade, built in 1892. It is a startling illusion. Busy or distracted visitors could be forgiven for thinking the "blade building" is invisible...

The architects wanted to use this effect to create a link between the two buildings, between the past and present. And they succeeded!

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