Renzo Piano designs glass "organic creature"
to house Pathé Foundation

| 22 comments
 

These photographs show the bulbous form of Renzo Piano's almost-complete Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, which nestles within a Parisian urban block.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed the "organic creature" in the courtyard of a 19th-century block to house the new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé – dedicated to preserving the history of French film company Pathé and promoting cinematography.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

The egg-shaped form connects to the surrounding Haussmann-era buildings at four points. Its form curves away from the existing buildings and its top peeks over the roofline.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

"The peculiar design of this building is determined by the site's major limits and requirements," said the workshop. "While respecting the distances with the surrounding buildings, the building improves the neighbour's access to natural light and air."

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

Arching engineered timber ribs guide and support the layer of curved glass panes that form the shape of the building.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

An external skin of translucent glass tiles envelops the entire structure, creating the effect of an armadillo hide over the humped form while letting softened light into the upper storeys.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

Once complete, the building will contain offices for the foundation, spaces for temporary exhibitions and the Pathé archive.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

A 70-seat cinema will be installed in the basement and a planted garden will surround the base of the structure.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

The building stands on the site of a 19th-century theatre, which was converted into one of Paris' first cinemas. Two buildings that previously stood in the courtyard were demolished to make way for the new structure.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

Visitors and employees will enter through the facade along the Avenue des Gobelins, which features sculptures by Auguste Rodin, and is undergoing restoration.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

"The art of inserting a building into an historical city block means engaging in an open, physical dialogue with those already there," said the workshop. "Building onto an extant structure also presents an opportunity for a more widespread renovation project, a reclaiming of space."

Behind the stone frontage is a glass atrium, in which a metal circulation core connects to the bulbous structure via a series of bridges at the lower levels. A spiral staircase links the upper floors of the main building.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano Building Workshop, which also designed the Shard skyscraper in London and the extension to the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas, expects the project to complete in September. See more architecture by Renzo Piano »

Read on for more information sent by Renzo Piano Building Workshop:


Fondation Pathé

The art of inserting a building into an historical city block means engaging in an open, physical dialogue with those already there. Building onto an extant structure also presents an opportunity for a more widespread renovation project, a reclaiming of space. The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is an unexpected presence, a curved volume one glimpses floating in the middle of the courtyard in which it sits, anchored on just a few supports. On the ground, there is a stand of birch trees, a floral island set in the dense mineral context of the city.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Basement plan - click for larger image

The Fondation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé is an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Pathé’s heritage, and to the promotion of the cinematographic art. Its new headquarters [sits at the centre of a block in the XIII arrondissement, where an old mid-19th century theatre - transformed into a cinema (one of the first ones in Paris) in the mid-1900s and then radically transformed again in the 1960s - once stood].

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Ground floor plan - click for larger image

The new building, [which will be finished over the next few months], will house Pathé's archives, some (spaces for temporary exhibitions as well as for the permanent collection) (including a 70-seat screening room), and the offices of the Foundation.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
First floor plan - click for larger image

The project called for the demolition of the two existing buildings to create an organic "creature" that better responds to the restrictions of the site. [The idea was to respond to the functional and representative programme requested by the Fondation, while at the same time increasing the quality of the space surrounding the new building] The facade on the avenue des Gobelins has been restored and preserved, due to its historical and artistic value. Decorated with sculptures by [a young] Auguste Rodin, it is not only a historical landmark, but also an iconic building for the Gobelins area.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Second floor plan - click for larger image

A new transparent building just behind the facade functions as the foundation's public access. Looking like a greenhouse, it offers a view on the interior garden through the transparent ground floor of a second building in the central court that houses the project's main functions.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Third floor plan - click for larger image

The peculiar design of this building is determined by the site's major limits and requirements. While respecting the distances with the surrounding buildings, the building improves the neighbour’s access to natural light and air. By reducing the footprint, the project creates space for a garden in the back of the site.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Fourth floor plan - click for larger image

The upper part of the building is made of glass, providing natural light for the office spaces of the Foundation.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Section - click for larger image

From the street the building is only perceived through, and over, the restored facade like a discreet presence during the daytime, while it will be softly glowing at night.

Pathe Foundation installation in Paris by Renzo Piano
Section - click for larger image
  • DL1119

    Internal spaces are excellent. However, I feel bad for all the neighbours who have to wake up looking at this monstrosity.

    • dan

      I would definitely move house…

    • HD NGUYEN

      I’d like to see it every morning if I lived beside it.

    • Matt

      Can’t any visitors to this site read? The current building replaces two existing buildings and allows a more generous inflow of light and air. I’d much rather be looking at this than a narrow light-well. In fact, I’d be delighted to be looking at this.

      • dan

        Yes we can, but just because we’d get more light and air doesn’t mean we want to wake up every day looking at this.

    • Skiltz1

      This looks like a colossal heating duct which, like other purely functional components, are typically obscured from view as being aesthetically displeasing – much like this hyper-pretentious example of museum architecture should be.

  • Erik

    Funny how everyone has to suffer for an architect’s pipe dream. Just shove it down their throats and if they don’t like it, they’re just not smart enough to get it.

    • jmt

      Maybe you can invent a robot to design buildings for us then. Someone has to design buildings.

  • Juanito

    I envy them.

  • Hue

    This building isn’t built for boring people.

    • Skiltz1

      However millions of boring people will visit it every year alongside all of those artsy, transcendent people.

  • HAP

    Where has the sun gone?

  • Arui

    Renzo never stops astonishing me!

    • dan

      Me neither – First Central St Giles and then this – both astoundingly ugly.

  • fred

    This is very, very good. does what architecture is supposed to do – present an innovative vision which solves the problem beautifully in an unfamiliar but necessary form. Kudos.

  • The Blob

    Love it! just love it!

  • dzvelja

    I love it and I think Paris deserves another modern landmark like this. We can’t create buildings from XVIII and XIX century today, just so they don’t stick out from the crowd. My only concern would be in terms of energy for air conditioning, since it’s like a giant crystal ball.

  • rod

    How very generous of you. I would never grant him such a complimentary moniker.

  • xik

    The section drawings don’t go with the plan drawings.

  • Gabriel Villalobos

    Whew! I had a brief Coop Himmelb(l)au moment here.

  • Chris

    Oh god. That is just plain hideous.

  • M. Seventeen

    Sometimes, design necessitates ugliness. Beauty is not an end unto itself, it needs to be functional and have something to say. Sometimes that ends up being an ugly structure. At least Gehry didn’t build something hideous here with no context for pure mathematical shock value. Renzo’s the man, and this building is dope even if it does give me the willies.