The Parc des Ateliers through the ages

In 2013, Hoffmann launched LUMA Arles to plan, develop, and manage the Parc des Ateliers, an expansive former industrial site located in Arles, France. 

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The Parc des Ateliers in the 19th century

1842: the deputy and writer Alphonse de Lamartine supports the routing of the Paris-Lyon-Marseille railway line via Arles in the National Assembly. A first devel-opment phase for the site of the Arlesian railway workshops is then commenced (1845-1856). Construction includes a workshop for the manufacture and repair of machinery, a carriage workshop, a wagon workshop and a machinery warehouse.
(…) It is the city of Arles, a city admirably placed by nature, or rather for which nature has, so to speak, made its place (…) ”—Alphonse de Lamartine to the French National Assembly on 30 April 1842.

1848: the Avignon-Marseille section is inaugurated in Arles. This marks a period of economic boom for the city. The workshops become the city’s main employers, employing up to 1,800 people in 1920.

The Parc des Ateliers in the 20th century

1937: France’s various railway companies merge to become the SNCF. Technological progress gradually replaces the steam train, and with it the Ateliers d’Arles that specialised in its construction.

1969: Creation of the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie festival by Michel Tournier, Jean-Maurice Rouquette and Lucien Clergue.

1984: Despite several modernisation phases, the Parc des Ateliers undergoes progressive de-industrialisation and closes its doors, following a long decline in its activity. Abandoned, this wasteland in the centre of the city is gradually invaded by vegetation. Its buildings deteriorate and are sporadically used for storage, photography exhibitions or concerts.

The Parc des Ateliers in the 21st century

2002: Maja Hoffmann, patron of the Rencontres d’Arles, and François Hébel, then director of the photography festival, create the Prix Découverte (Discovery Prize) in order to broaden the festival’s outreach and support emerging photographers.

2004: Creation of the LUMA Foundation to support and produce experimental projects led by artists and cultural institutions.

2006: Release of Sketches of Frank Gehry, a documentary film directed by Sydney Pollack about the architect’s work, produced by Maja Hoffmann.
The City of Arles approves the creation of the ZAC des Ateliers for the development and equipment of the former SNCF workshops (17 July 2006).

2007: Inauguration of La Grande Halle, renovated by par Moatti & Rivière Architects.
The City and the AREA PACA sign the concession agreement of the ZAC des Ateliers to implement the development operation (12 June 2007).

With Frank Gehry, Maja Hoffmann starts reflecting on the way art centres, creative spaces and exhibition spaces have developed in the world. She brings together a core group of curators, artists, architects and thinkers: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Beatrix Ruf, Liam Gillick and Tom Eccles. Together, they are working to create a new cultural centre for the 21st century.

2008: The LUMA Foundation co-signs with the City of Arles, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and the Rencontres d’Arles an agreement for the development of the Parc des Ateliers project.

2009: The LUMA Foundation. Un laboratoire d’idées et de projets exhibition, a model of cultural utopia for the Parc des Ateliers in the making. Organized with Gehry Partners in collaboration with the Rencontres d’Arles.

2010: In order to support Arles’s emergent cultural vitality, the Ministry of Culture announces that the National School of Photography will be granted a new building in the Parc des Ateliers.
Maja Hoffmann invites landscape architect Bas Smets to work on the landscaping project at the Parc des Ateliers, as well as architect Annabelle Selldorf for the renovation of the site’s buildings.
In association with the Rencontres d’Arles, the LUMA Foundation begins an experimental phase of artistic programming in Arles, with events taking place at the Parc des Ateliers as well as other places around the city: its arenas, Alyscamps necropolis and Place de la République (Republic Square).

2010: How Soon Is Now? – a study of contemporary photography and a series of symposia organized by LUMA Core Group as part of the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles.

2011: Symposium with CCS Bard entitled “The Human Snapshot.

2012: To the Moon via the Beach - a group exhibition in the Arles Roman Amphitheater.

2013: Neue Welt, an exhibition by Wolfgang Tillmans, presented as part of the partner program of the Rencontres d’Arles.
Conference with CCS Bard entitled “The Flood of Rights”.

5 April 2014: Following several years of research for the project, construction officially begins with a ceremony organised for the laying of the first stone of LUMA Arles. The Solaris Chronicles, an exhibition of models of Frank Gehry’s landmark projects, was launched on that occasion.

Maja Hoffmann wants the site to remain accessible to the public during the construction of The Tower (designed by Frank Gehry) and the rehabilitation of existing buildings. The Parc des Ateliers thus plays host to an artistic and cultural programme prefiguring its future activities as well as events linked to the Rencontres d’Arles.
From 2014 onwards, Les Forges building is renovated. Made available to the Rencontres d’Arles festival, the space allows for museum-quality exhibitions, and co-productions with various international institutions and collections.

2015: Opening of Imponderable, an exhibition by Tony Oursler, commissioned and organized by the LUMA Foundation for the Parc des Ateliers, as part of the Rencontres d’Arles.
Launch of Offprint, a project to support independent and experimental publishers in the fields of art, architecture, design, human sciences, and visual culture.
LUMA Arles also launched its educational program, and developed projects with the city’s schools throughout the year.

2016: Creation of Atelier LUMA, a think tank, production workshop, and learning network that designs new and sustainable ways of using the region’s natural and cultural resources.

La Mécanique Générale building is completed with a contemporary extension. It was also open to the public immediately with the presentation of Systematically Open? New Forms for Contemporary Image Production, an exhibition designed and developed by the Core Group – Colored Sculpture, an installation by Jordan Wolfson–and More Sweetly Play the Dance, by William Kentdrige.
Symposium with CCS Bard entitled “How Institutions Think.”
Launch of the LUMA Arles artistic residency program with Benjamin Millepied’s dance company for 3 years.

Spring 2017: Creation of LUMA Days, in order to share the production and research work carried out by Atelier LUMA, in collaboration with IdeasCity and the New Museum in New York.

Summer 2017: The LUMA Foundation marked the 10th anniversary of the renovation of La Grande Halle with a comprehensive interdisciplinary program. It launched its Living Archives programme with an exhibition dedicated to Annie Leibovitz. Also on view were Visible World, an installation by the artists Fischli/Weiss, and Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message, the Message is Death.

Alongside its exhibition program and other activities, LUMA Arles presented for the first time a prototype of the park created by Bas Smets. A reception area, a restaurant (Le Réfectoire), a bookshop, an information and ticketing area were also created.

Fall 2017: As part of its partner program, the LUMA Foundation, in collaboration with Galerie Patrick Seguin, in Paris, presented the Jean Prouvé. Architect for Better Days exhibition. Bringing together twelve prefabricated structures created between 1939 and 1969, that exhibition showed the largest number of Prouvé’s demountable building systems ever assembled in one place.

Spring 2018: opening of La Formation building, dedicated to the performing arts. It welcomes dance company L.A. Dance Project for its third year in residence at LUMA Arles.
At the same time, LUMA Arles organized LUMA Days #2, a forum for art and ideas entitled “Hospitality. In Search of a Common Path.” also organized a symposium with CCS Bard entitled “Curating after the Global. Roadmaps for the Present.”

Summer 2018: Presentation of the retrospective celebrating visual artists Gilbert & George’s 50 years of collaboration, in co-production with Moderna Museet, Stockholm – as well as an installation by Rirkrit Tiravanija, DO WE DREAM UNDER THE SAME SKY – a video projection by Arthur Jafa, APEX – Pipilotti Rist’s audio-visual installation, Pixel Forest – Amar Kanwar’s video work, Such a Morning – and A story with Vincent, a photographic exhibition by Lily Gavin.

Fall 2018: Presentation of Picture Industry. A Provisional History of the Technical Image, an exhibition curated by Walead Beshty. Beginning of the construction work on the public park designed by Bas Smets.

Spring 2019: LUMA Arles opened its summer season with LUMA Days #3 – A Declaration of Interdependence. On that occasion, the LUMA Foundation presented its guest program, A School of Schools. Design as Learning, an exhibition curated by Jan Boelen, artistic director and founder of the Atelier LUMA program. An immersive video by artist Rachel Rose, Enclosure – a co-production of LUMA and Park Avenue Armory, New York – was presented in a preview showing.

Summer 2019: Alongside Rachel Rose’s video installation, LUMA Arles presented a piece by Emily Mast with choreographer Zack Winokur commissioned by the LUMA Foundation and L.A. Dance Project. The Parc des Ateliers hosted a performance by dancer Dimitri Chamblas entitled Slow Show which brought together a group of volunteer and amateur dancers. For the 50th anniversary of the festival, LUMA Arles and Les Rencontres d’Arles co-organized an exhibition based on Martin Parr’s collection of photo books, acquired by the Tate thanks to the support of LUMA Arles.

September 2019: Driven by a shared concern for ecological issues, LUMA Arles and the WE LOVE GREEN Festival held LE SON DU PARC, an evening of concerts at the Parc des Ateliers.

Winter 2019: First iteration of the LUMA Eco Days: Building a Common Agenda Around Waste and Energy, a new initiative to bring together local and interna-tional experts on environmental issues.

Spring 2020: LUMA Arles launched the season with LUMA Days #4 – In Transit: A Geography of Change. The event gathered virtual guests for a series of interviews around the issues of transition, the crisis of imagination, new geography, and responsibility.

June 2020: First opening of Le Médico-Social building, which hosted an exhibition entitled It’s Urgent! with over 120 artists, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. On view, alongside It’s Urgent! were two video installations: Der Lauf der Dinge (Le Cours des choses) by Fischli/Weiss and Untitled by Peter Fischli.
The new Le Réfectoire opened its doors, after being completely redesigned by Martino Gamper’s London studio using materials developed by Atelier LUMA.

December 2020: LUMA Eco Days #2 – Building with Nature. Through two series of conferences – the Algae Summit and New Practices in Building – the event aimed to promote the exchange ideas in order to bring out realistic, provocative or speculative scenarios and question the global approach to sustainable development.

26 June 2021: End of the construction of The Tower and the landscaped park, full opening of the Parc des Ateliers to the public.

2023: Inauguration of Le Magasin Électrique, an industrial builing renovated by Atelier LUMA.




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