The new Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh

Brick shrine for a fashion god

The new Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh is the expression of the designer’s life-long love of North Africa.
by Fabian Peters | 10/29/2017

For Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakesh was always somewhere whence he could flee. It was here that the designer, tormented by depression since his time in the military, fled to escape the public eye. It was here whence he withdrew to completely absorb himself in creating the collections that made him possibly the most important haute couturier of the 20th century. Without doubt, it was his roots, the son of pied-noirs, French settlers in Algeria, a childhood and youth spent in Oran on the African Mediterranean coast that made Morocco a place for which Saint Laurent constantly yearned. It was here that he at least in part able to free himself of the social, professional and psychological compulsions that otherwise constrained him.

The curved auditorium

After his death in 2008, his long-standing companion and the manager of his fashion empire, Pierre Bergé (who himself recently died) committed the revenue from the sale of their joint art collection to a foundation that bears their two names. The foundation has now, after establishing an archive in the former rooms of the fashion company at Avenue Marceau and renovating and opening Saint Laurent’s private home and garden, the “Villa Majorelle” in Marrakesh to the public, has now set up a museum in the Moroccan city, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. It is dedicated to the fashion designer’s oeuvre and will use countless exhibits to illustrate his glorious creations.

The circular courtyard

Studio KO in Paris has designed a building boasting 4,000 square meters of space that clearly references regional architectural typologies. The closed outer skin made of red brick is exceptionally lively thanks to the use of a multitude of different geometrical patterns. The entire building is arranged round a circular inner courtyard that has an almost archaic thrust to it. Seen from the street, the most striking section is the auditorium, whereby the rounded transition to the podium building beneath it is remotely reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh buildings. The one or other detail may bring late works by Frank Lloyd Wright to mind. Quite clearly, studio KO and Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent did not fear using grand gestures to honor a man and his work whose creations themselves did not shy away from grand gestures. 

Yves Saint Laurent at the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakesh
Exhibition hall
Collection room