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More Than A Museum: Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech

When you think of a museum you probably picture a large, open, and perhaps stale, space lined with pictures from famous painters, or sculptures from well-known names. White walls, silent passageways, and clean lines likely come to mind. Well, that certainly isn’t the case with the Musee Yves Saint Laurent located in Marrakech, Morocco. In fact, this intriguing structure couldn’t be farther from that!

Since its opening in 2017, this stunning museum has already established itself as a must-see destination. The museum displays an important selection from the Foundation Pierre Bergé- Yves Saint Laurent’s famous collection containing over 5.000 pieces of clothing, 15.000 haute couture accessories, and tens of thousands of sketches and assorted objects. The exhibition space, designed by French architect Christophe Martin, is remarkable and truly a sight for sore eyes.

The museum, spanning 4.000 sqm, has a long list of amenities. It contains a 400 sqm permanent exhibition space, a 150 sqm temporary exhibition space, a bookshop, a 130-seat auditorium, a cafe-restaurant, and a research library containing over 5.000 books. It’s also directly adjacent to the famous Jardin Majorelle, a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden.

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in this desert oasis.

© Dan Glasser

Inspiration

The museum was designed by Studio KO, an architectural firm established by Oliver Marty and Karl Fournier. The two young architects were influenced by Laurent’s archives in Paris. When looking through the archives they noticed the duality of the curved and straight lines, the bold forms, as well as the series of loose and sharp cuts in the pieces themselves. They aimed to replicate this when designing the structure.

From the outside, the structure is made up of cubic forms ornamented with bricks that produce a pattern that resembles fabric threads. The building is made of terracotta, concrete, and an earthen-colored terrazzo, which pair perfectly with the surroundings of Morocco. The bricks are made from Moroccan earth, and the terrazzo is made from a mix of local stone and marble. The interior is bright, velvety, and smooth, like the lining of a high-end couture jacket. The building itself, as you can see, is a work of art. You can feel the love that was put into this space, as well as the attention to detail and homage to the designer.

© Dan Glasser

© Dan Glasser

A day at the museum

Picture this: you enter the museum below the flickering North African sun and step into a slender corridor, leading you to a brightly lit entrance plaza. There, you stumble upon a massive six-foot YSL logo, directing you to the main exhibition space. Suddenly… utter darkness. You feel as though you are on another planet or perhaps deep in the mind of Yves Saint Laurent. The pieces of clothing, including the famous 1965 “Robe Mondrian” dress, appear to float towards you in the dark space. The colorful design of this geometric garment catches your eye and draws you even deeper in. 

From there, you pass by 50 mannequins, grouped by theme, to illustrate the variety of Laurent’s work. You feel the drama of the space as the textures and embroideries of the pieces stand out, illuminated by spotlights in the black background. “For me,” Martin says, “light is the most important building block in any scenography. This perfect illumination of individual exhibits within an exhibition is essential for the impact of the complete presentation.»

After experiencing the exhibition, you are left with a sense of passion and precision. You are in awe of the details of the space and the pristine condition of the textiles. The museum has an air conditioning system with temperature and moisture control, thanks to a collaboration with X-Art, specialists in preventative conservation, to ensure that each item maintains perfect condition.

Afterward, you are left with a long list of other things to do. You can head down and explore the museum’s library, containing books on geography, literature, poetry, Arabic and Andalusian history, botany, Berber culture, and the world of fashion. You can stop in the café and grab a coffee and a snack. Or, you can make your way to the auditorium, which boasts state-of-the-art acoustics, allowing for concerts, film screenings, and conferences to be held all at the same time. And don’t forget to explore the adjacent Jardin Majorelle before you end your stay!

If you didn’t have plans to visit Morocco, you do now. The museum has something for everyone and is quickly becoming a cultural landmark. It’s more than a museum; it’s an experience for all the senses.

© Dan Glasser

© Dan Glasser

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