Luxembourg Surprises

Some might find it surprising that there is notable modern architecture and art in Luxembourg City, the quiet, formal capital of a country that’s known more for its fairytale-like features such as hilltop castles, royal family and great expanses of forest.

Smaller than Rhode Island, strategically located between France and Germany and sculpted with dramatic topography that suspends fortifications high above steep ravines, Luxembourg has been much coveted over the centuries: It ping-ponged from Burgundy to Spain, France to Austria and Prussia to the Netherlands, and was occupied by the Nazis during both World Wars.

In Luxembourg City you can tour the Grand Ducal Palace, stroll through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town – and see striking architecture by I.M. Pei, Richard Meier and Christian de Portzamparc, and colossal public sculpture by Richard Serra and Frank Stella.

Indeed. Richard Meier designed the HypoVereinsbank in his trademark white and with a moat and ramp that refer to Luxembourg’s fortifications. In its plaza is the 20-foot-high Frank Stella sculpture Sarreguemines, whose jumble of curves is in juxtaposition to the straight lines of Meier’s building.

Then there’s the 65-foot landmark Exchange, a strong, unswerving Richard Serra sculpture that stands alone in a traffic circle that marks an entrance to the city.

Most notable though are two buildings that opened in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Designed by French Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc, the stunning and soaring white Philharmonie Luxembourg has quickly become an in-demand venue for many of the world’s great musical artists. And the elegant geometric lines of the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM; pictured) blend beautifully with the 18th-century fortifications it’s built around.

Have you seen these structures? What were your impressions?


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