The Project of the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean

The Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean reflects a political wish: to make Luxembourg, which rose to the forefront as European and financial capital during the 1980s, a cultural capital as well.

© Photo : Photothèque de la Ville de Luxembourg, Carlo Hommel, 1995

During the economic boom years, the government of Jacques Santer, provided the impetus for an ambitious cultural infrastructure programme. In the early 1990s, the government decided to entrust the design of the new museum to the Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei.

Pei’s reputation in the field of museology was such – he had for example built museums in Washington and in Boston, overseen the refurbishment of the Louvre in Paris and the entire Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin – that he was immediately granted the project. In 1997, the legislation for the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean building project was officially adopted (17 January 1997) by the ministries of Erna Hennicot-Schoepges (Minister of Culture between 1995 and 2004 and Minister of Public Works from 1999 to 2004) and Robert Goebbels (Minister of Public Works from 1994 to 1999). Construction officially began on 22 January 1999. At the museum’s opening in July 2006, the tutorial ministries were lead by François Biltgen (Minister for Culture, Higher Education and Research), Octavie Modert (Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research) and Claude Wiseler (Minister of Public Works).

The Museum’s name

The Luxembourg Government decided to name the new creative endeavour „the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean” to commemorate the 25 year reign of H.R.H. the Grand-Duc Jean, Grand-Duc of Luxembourg from 1964 to 2000 when he abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Grand Duc Henri. The name „Mudam” is the abbreviation of MUsée D’Art Moderne.

I. M. Pei Architect Design © Photo : Christian Aschman, 2008

The Site

The Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean was built at the old Fort Thüngen, near the “Place de l’Europe”, on the Kirchberg plateau. Named after the Baron Von Thüngen, Austrian commander of the fortress, the Fort Thüngen was built in 1732 based on plans drawn up by Vauban (who built the outside fort) in 1688. The Fort Thüngen was an important element of the town’s defenses, and more than any other buiding, symbolizes three centuries of Luxembourg military history. In 1867, when Luxembourg was proclaimed neutral territory by the Treaty of London, the fortifications became defunct and were demolished.

They were then all but forgotten until the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean was built, because Ieoh Ming Pei decided to build the new Museum directly onto the rampart walls of the original fortress.

The “Park Dräi Éechelen”

In 2000, a limited competition among landscapers was launched with regard to plans for the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean building and the remains of the Fort Thüngen. The outcome of the consultation was that the project was granted to Parisian landscapist Michel Desvigne, whose project was chosen for “its finesse which respect and unify the old and the new structures”. The site was named the “Park Dräi Eechelen”, in reference to the three golden acorns set over the entrance to the Fort Thüngen building.

The completion of the park is set for end 2006. The “Park Dräi Eechelen” could be described as a metaphor of the shift between Luxembourg City’s medieval past – geographically situated at the south end of the park – to the modern era, symbolized by the plateau européen in the Kirchberg area. This evolution culminates in the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and the “Place de l’Europe”, situated north of the park.

The architect’s intentions

Ieoh Ming Pei describes his plan for the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean as follows: “The most important aspect that seduced me was the changing play between past and present, past and future. At the Fort Thüngen, with the Trois Glands, the past is there and I admire the work of Vauban, who built the foundations. What interests me is how to harmonize the past and the present so that they mutually reinforce each other.”


Project manager
Ministère des Travaux publics, Administration des Bâtiments Publics

Project design and construction supervision
Architects: I.M. Pei, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, New York / Georges Reuter Architectes, Luxembourg