All you need to know about Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech
Our new book tells the definitive story of the landmark museum in Marrakech dedicated to the legendary French fashion designer
As far as architectural commissions go, it was a challenging one. One day, a little under 10 years ago, the phone rang in the offices of the French architecture firm, Studio KO. It was Pierre Bergé, the French industrialist, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house, (alongside the man himself).
“It was not so surprising to receive a call from Pierre,” explains the architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty in the new book, Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech. “But neither was it a common occurrence. We knew each other. But we also knew of his lack of enthusiasm for contemporary architecture.”
Main east facade and entrance on rue Yves Saint Laurent. Photo © Dan Glasser
"Once – only once – had we seen him stop at the site of one of the houses we were building in Morocco, Villa K, as though moved by it,” they recall. “He later told us that it was in that moment the light went on for him – when he understood that a carefully considered assembly of materials and forms could create art in a space and, above all, in the landscape.”
Following the death of Yves Saint Laurent a few years earlier, Bergé was now approaching the architects with a new assembly of materials and forms in mind. He had decided to commission ‘a contemporary Moroccan building’, rooted in the land that he and Saint Laurent had discovered together in 1966 and then made their home.
“The remit was summed up in these words,” the architects recall. “It was up to us to offer him a place worthy of this talent and this love. ‘Neither mausoleum nor architectural gesticulation.’ That was more or less all that he said that evening. But he had instilled in us an excitement, mixed with curiosity and a sense of responsibility, that kept us on high alert for several days.”
Stained-glass windows illuminated from inside, seen from the entrance courtyard at night. Photo © Dan Glasser
The story of how Studio KO turned that challenging request into a building worthy of both Bergé’s brief and the YSL name is contained within Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech.
The book details the 1,423 days during which the museum was designed and built, prior to its opening in 2017. Beginning with that initial call, Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech shows how Bergé, the architects and a supporting cast of curators, designers, and artisans brought this incredible building to life, from the early sketches and maquette through to the selection of building materials, design features and motifs.
Within these pages we learn how zellij, the enamelled terracotta tiles that adorn the walls of Arab houses, inspired the museum’s insignia; how the museum’s stained-glass windows were informed by the beautiful fenestrations in Église Saint-Joseph in Le Havre, northern France; and how the clean lines of the foliage in Henri Rousseau’s paintings informed the aloe vera beds that Madison Cox, garden designer and spouse of Bergé, planted in the museum’s grounds.
Pierre Bergé died just a few weeks prior to the museum's opening, and Cox offers a heartfelt tribute to the man in the book's foreword. The book also features insights from prominent figures and members of Saint Laurent’s inner circle, including Betty Catroux and Catherine Deneuve. Accompanying texts, written by the architectural author and scholar Catherine Sabbah, are engaging and insightful, while the photographs, many of which were supplied by Studio KO, chronicle the building’s development, in exquisite detail.
Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, Paris. Photo: courtesy and copyright © Studio KO. The foundation’s archives room; photograph of Yves Saint Laurent by Helmut Newton
The book will be treasured by dedicated followers of fashion, as well as architectural enthusiasts, interior designer fans, or anyone interested in how artistry, legacy, cultural exchange, and contemporary placemaking can come together in extraordinarily fruitful ways. To find out more and order your copy of Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech go here.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech