Dedicated to the work of the legendary French fashion designer, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech (mYSLm) opened its doors in autumn 2017. It houses an important selection from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent’s impressive collection, which comprises 5,000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute couture accessories as well as tens of thousands of sketches and assorted objects. The museum is a winner of the Building of the Year 2020 Award.
The building has been designed by the French architecture firm Studio KO, founded by architects Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier. Situated on Rue Yves Saint Laurent, adjacent to the famous Jardin Majorelle, the new building spans over 4,000 m2 and is more than just a museum. It features a 400 m2 permanent exhibition space, showcasing Yves Saint Laurent’s work within an original scenography designed by Christophe Martin; a 150 m2 temporary exhibition space, a 130-seat auditorium, a bookshop, a café-restaurant with a terrace and a research library housing 5,000 books. The library’s collection includes books on Arabic and Andalusian history, geography, literature and poetry, as well as numerous volumes related to botany, Berber culture, Yves Saint Laurent’s oeuvre and the world of fashion.
While researching the designer’s archives in Paris, Studio KO was intrigued by the duality between curved and straight lines, and the succession of loose and clean cuts.
From the outside, the building is composed of cubic forms adorned with bricks which create a pattern resembling threads of fabric. The inside is markedly different, like the lining of a luxurious couture jacket: luminous, velvety and smooth.
Built of terracotta, concrete and an earthen coloured terrazzo with Moroccan stone fragments, the building blends harmoniously with its surroundings. The terracotta bricks that embellish the facade are made from Moroccan earth and produced by a local supplier.
The terrazzo used for the floor and facade is made using a combination of local stone and marble.
Exceptionally precise methods for conserving textiles have been put in place by the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, which has worked for over a decade towards the archiving of the late designer’s work. In collaboration with X-Art, specialists in preventative conservation, the Marrakech museum features an air conditioning system complete with temperature and moisture control to ensure that each item, be it a couture dress from the collection on show in the exhibition space or a rare book in the basement archives, remains preserved in perfect archival condition.
The auditorium’s state-of-the-art acoustics were designed by the architects in collaboration with Theatre Projects Consultant. This allows for the programming of concerts, film screenings and conferences in a separate and soundproof space. After a thorough study, the lighting engineers I.C.O.N installed the lighting of the external spaces surrounding the museum, the museum’s interior, and the atmospheric lighting for the exhibition space.
“The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech succinctly mixes two universes which we know well, and which we both hold particularly dear: Morocco and fashion. We have worked in this country — the same country that so profoundly inspired Saint Laurent – since the start of our careers, and we eventually opened an office here. It is a great pleasure to work alongside the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent on such an ambitious project and contribute in our own way to the legacy of the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century”, states Studio KO, Architecture Firm.
Pierre Bergé, President of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent says about the project, “Yves Saint Laurent and I discovered Marrakech in 1966, and we never left. This city deeply influenced Saint Laurent’s life and work, particularly his discovery of colour. The Studio KO architects share this passion for Marrakech. Their admiration for the region and its culture, as well as their intellectual and artistic rigour, signaled to us that they would be the perfect architects to undertake this project. Their clean, uncluttered style recalls Saint Laurent’s work, and we are delighted to be able to develop a common vision for a project of this stature, which is as emblematic as Yves Saint Laurent’s oeuvre.”
Location: Yves Saint Laurent Sreet, Gueliz District Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco
Orientation: North – East
Altitude: 450 m
Site status before the project: Urban lot
Client: Jardin Majorelle SCA
Program: Museum with definitive and temporary showrooms, shop, coffee shop, public studio, library, reserves et administration.
Commission date: January 2014
Completion date: April 2017
Built area: 3857 sqm
Liveable area: 3105 sqm
Construction type : structure: reinforced concrete / Exterior wall: double red clay industrial brick wall / External facing: natural clay brick and terrazzo
Sustainable features: Sustainable devices - Double exterior wall with air space and insulation / Solar Panels/terrace Green roof / double glazing with sun protection/recovery of rainwater
Principal architects: Karl Fournier & Olivier Marty
Architecte mandataire: Jean-Michel Rousseau Architects / Operation architect: Claire Patteet / Scenographer exhibition and shop: Christophe Martin
About Studio KO
The architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty have worked for over ten years on various projects in Europe and Morocco, as well as in more distant parts of Africa and America. The creative duo has sought to impose an eclectic spirit, where the style of each project is unique while developing a narrative where space, light and materials become its words and grammar. Each project has allowed them to experiment and reveal a new approach, from public spaces to private contemporary residences in natural settings. They always seek to highlight the uniqueness of each project and the manner in which it will be carried out. Whether it is a London hotel or an abstract stone monolith perched on a hill, the context dictates their approach. The constraints of each site provide different elements in the creative equation of the structure, be it the archaeology, environment, or topography.
The spirit of each place serves as a narrative basis to create a story. Upon meeting a visionary client, this same poetry shapes each interior’s design, be it public or private. Studio KO employs materials, as one would use words, to change the way these materials are perceived, and to reinvent an architectural language. A glossy surface takes on the brilliance a matt finish. The multi-coloured suddenly become monochromatic. Dark colours find light, fire draws beautiful shadows and fabric unexpectedly reverses its pattern. These effects, skilfully balanced by masters of their craft, glide between sophisticated minimalism and understated luxury. These two ends of the spectrum are linked by a peaceful relationship with history. For Studio KO, the true definition of modernity is to see our past in order to change it, or even better, to free ourselves of it entirely.