“You cannot simply put something new into a place. You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge along with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see.” – Tadao Ando
In the current era where identity establishment is a must, architects have forgotten the prevailing identities created by their predecessors. Such adverse actions lead to a repetitive design formulation and in reality, a massive amount of unwanted and excessive architecture in the urbanscape. Many architects have now found a way around it and have started refurbishing and restoring used buildings to their original glory but with a different functional configuration within them.
Most of these buildings turn out to be old factories and offices which have now become museums and art galleries. This decreases the saturation of the built form in the environment and also helps it remain constant for a brief period. One of these examples is the Bourse de Commerce, an old stock exchange building turned into a museum housing the Pinault collection in Paris redesigned by Pritzker Laureate, architect Tadao Ando.
The Bourse de Commerce, situated in midtown Paris, was a trade building for grains and other commodities in the mid-1800s. It also provided space for business by the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Later in 2016, the City of Paris leased the building to François Pinault, to transform the building to house his private collection of over 3500 works valued at €1.25 billion approximately.
Over the last two decades, Pinault has enlisted Ando to design many major art centers, including the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, and now the Bourse de Commerce–Pinault Collection. The project is a collaborative approach between Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, the Pierre-Antoine Gatier architecture agency, and building engineering consultant Setec Bâtiment.
The Intervention and Sanctity Preservation
The existing building, situated in Paris’ 1st Arrondissement, is a circular edifice with a central rotunda covered by a historical iron dome. The main goal was to preserve the memories and historical events’ pieces of evidence screened on the edifice and interior spaces.
To obliterate them would cause damage to the structure as well as its history. Hence, a 9-meter high cylindrical wall with a 30-meter wide diameter was built within the existing building, expanding up to three levels including a basement level auditorium.
The concrete cylindrical wall has four identical openings working as the access and to introduce natural light into space. The enclosure provides a designated space for exhibits directly underneath the cupola while also encasing the foyer and auditorium below.
The intervention of the architects has created a liminal space between the interior facade and the concrete cylinder. New passages, corridors, and staircases allow entire access to the building including underground facilities.
The 300- seater auditorium can house screenings, conferences, and concerts and a black box theatre can have video installations and more experimental performances.
The completion of this intervention ensures and provides 3,000 square meters of modular and flexible exhibition space which allows hosting of intimate to monumental scales of arts as well as to adapt to the surroundings. Not only does it equip the arts to be displayed but also creates a new circulatory configuration within to exploit new areas to view the historic structure.
The visitors entering through the ground floor reception area and entering the double-height gallery space can access the small exhibition space on the first floor from a singular point while the galleries on the second floor can be accessed from two points. The routes from the galleries then lead to the restaurant and lounge in the end with breathtaking views of the cityscape and frescoes overhead on the dome.
The main theme has been kept constant throughout the project to keep the past interwoven with the present and future while preserving the surrounding historical context and complementing them to illuminate the art within. Such objectives are what the future may hold for the architectural world as the density of built forms may reduce and interventions to accentuate the built form prevailing in the environment.