From a distance some thought it would look like an insect cocoon. Its creator described it as a cloud. Many wanted to know what would hold it up and a few worried about who would clean it and how.
But on Monday, all agreed that the enormous 100 million euro (US$127 million) glass museum that US architect Frank Gehry has designed for Paris was extraordinary.
The plans for the building, a mass of vast swirling and jutting glass panels unveiled on Monday, make the city's other controversial edifices -- the Louvre pyramid and the Pompidou Center -- look almost staid by comparison.
Gehry is best known for the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, a swirling mass of titanium that has become his most iconic work. But even he had some difficulty describing the oversized glass conservatory he has designed as a proposed museum for the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogn in Paris.
"It's a cloud of glass -- magical, ephemeral, all transparent," he said.
It was, he added, "not stodgy."
"I wanted to create something that every time you approach, it shows a different character depending on the light and the time of day. I wanted to emulate everything this word `transparence' means," he said.
If built -- the project has yet to be given the go-ahead -- it will likely be nicknamed "the Cloud," although it is officially the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation.
The project has been commissioned by Bernard Arnauld, president of luxury goods group Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and the richest man in France with an estimated personal fortune of more than 4 billion euros.
Arnaud, 57, said the building was his personal dream and that it was his mission to give the public a chance to discover art. He said he hoped work could start next year and for the museum, housing permanent and temporary exhibitions of contemporary and classical art, to open in 2010 at the latest. He said it was too early to say what works would be housed in the museum but that it would exhibit the art that has influenced his company's designers from Christian Dior to Marc Jacobs.
But Arnaud refused to comment on suggestions that his project was a dig at his rival Francois Pinault, another well-known art collector and the fourth-richest man in France, whose "art foundation" was to have been established in Paris but decamped to Venice, claiming French bureaucracy had strangled the project.
Gehry, 77, said the commission was like a dream.
"I have always had a curiosity and interest in fashion and as I experienced the world Paris became my favorite city. So when a man who leads in fashion, who collects art that I love invited me to Paris to do a building, it was a heavenly assignment," he said.