2005 – Contemporary art district _ Paris France
Program Exhibitions, spectacles, experiments, studios, hotel, restaurant, laboratory research
Floor area 100 000 m² approximately
Place Bassin de l’arsenal Paris
General Principles To take into account the program specificity (art and contemporary), to create public spaces, to develop a district.
Reinterpretation and distortion of a parisian urban block
How to use the site as well as possible (analyzes on the city scale)?
What is a district of the contemporary art in Paris and what does it have to look like ?
Now, the site (arsenal district), where cars are very numerous, does not have particular identity except for the canal. It is lively in the north (Bastille) and less pleasant in the south. There are very few neighbourhood parks: a planted walkway and the botanical garden on other side of the Seine. Public places are quasi non-existent: Bastille place is more intended for cars than pedestrians.
Nevertheless the site has some essential assets:
- A wide view (very low sky line) as a consequence of the urban vacuum created by the canal
- Some parts of the canal banks are pleasantly planted below the Bastille Boulevard by the canal.
A district of art
Art, a mixture of beauty and novelty, too often hidden or invisible proposes a vision of the world, a criticism of society or a new image of beauty. It must be shown, be heard, it must emphasize its difference, to be seen, to sometimes impose itself… but not to leave indifference.
A district of contemporary art in Paris should be a convivial, amusing, attractive and cultural place representative of contemporary creation. Every art should be one next to the others (literature, visual arts, architecture, music, theatre, and also cinema, dancing, haute couture). Critics would be there also – their mediator role between the public and art has always been influential -. The place must integrate training spaces, studios with accessibility to artists for one determined period, exhibition spaces and also hotels, restaurants, café…
- Diagrammatic space planning
We chose to distribute almost all program surfaces in two large buildings positioned on both sides of the canal. Breaking from the style of existing buildings, they advance on the street perpendicularly to the canal axis. They preserve the perspective created by the canal and their big size makes it possible to even preserve or free new pedestrians’ spaces (creation of a public place, adjustments of parks…). Motor traffic is managed with undergrounds.
- Omnipresent art
Art is exposed in the entire district. It is visible everywhere, inside one of the buildings but also on its walls (video screens), on the banks (sculptures and exhibitions in the parks) and on water (night video projection on the canal, floating stages, sets of lights…).
- Building design
The objective is not to see only Architecture. That is why we decide to show two different buildings, dialoguing one with the other (connection is made visible in particular by cables linking both buildings). One building which expresses today’s architecture is including hotel, training spaces and studios. The other gathering exhibition places must emphasize Art of different varieties (thus the idea of a «video screen» wall).
- Creation of a center area in the district
Halfway between Bastille and the Seine, both buildings create a vast space between themselves. This public space is out of line compared to the existing frame. This central public place can join people together for significant artistic events.
- Peaceful studios
Set back from the lively district area, the artists’ studios are located inside the block. They are distributed by activity over ten floors around a small garden in the heart of one block. Being isolated they invite meditation.