Rooftop Remodelling 221

matter. In both cases, the formal characteristics of a closed figure are negated: the geometry of the elements is rectilinear instead of curved: the elements come together at sharp angles and through intersecting lines and planes.

To describe the design we have to proceed through contradictions. While the overall figure approximates a streamlined shape, representing the genesis of form by external forces acting on matter - carving it. sculpting it, rounding it out - the particular pieces that make up this general figure seem unfinished, a representation of the destruction of form by forces from within - detonating, fracturing, dismembering it. There is a duality of containing and contained worlds in the arcane, indeterminate figure, bird or bolt of lightning; but it is also impossible to decide whether the figure on the top corner of Falkestrasse and Bilder-strasse is landing or taking off.

There are, of course, in the history of architecture many precedents of exploding, of displacement, of the breaking up of the conti nuity of form. One can cite the Futurists or Constructivists and, closer to home, we see it in the work of the Viennese Hans Hollein, in details such as the emblematic 'cracked' look of the Schullin Jewelry Shop (pp. 72-73).

As in other cases of contemporary architecture-such asCalatrava's Lyon Railway Station for the TGV (pp. 284-85) - Coop Himmelb-lau's rooftop is to a large extent a study in thinking through architectural means. Both Himmelblau and Calatrava are concerned with movement and flight. Both Calatrava's complex and the general figure of the Coop Himmelblau rooftop appear to be the result of mimesis, as they both outline an airborne silhouette. But any similarities end here.

In Calatrava's structure the streamlined motif of the general figure is repeated in the constituent components. Forms of the same family areembedded in a 'fractal' manner. Asa result of his consistent, hierarchical 'nesting' of formal, spatial motifs, there is a continuity without surprises in the unfolding of the total figuration.

In the Coop Himmelblau project, on the other hand, the motif of the arched figure is elaborated on a lower level of the scale in fragments, cracked pieces, shreds, snippets and snatches of matter, which, as previously stated, break the continuity of the form of the overall figure - they negate the figure's formal rules. This negation of the formal rules occurs on two levels: in the geometry of the individual elements (none of which is curved) and in the way they come together. By contrast, on a higher-scale level, there is a general implicit curvilinearity in the intersecting lines and planes at sharp angles of bird-like figures.

At first sight this seeming heap of materials may appear awkwardly assembled: one can find endless 'false' ways of attaching one piece of structure to another and invent interpretations. But there is a studied carelessness that raises questions about structural well-formedness, invites comparisons, provokes thinking. A correct' way of construction would not necessarily make one ask deeper questions about form, structure and validity.

(Above) View of the conference room and entrance to the reception area


(Above left) The conference room, with access to exterior balcony

(Right) View of the office on the Falkestrasse side

(Below left) Section

Especially captivating in the new structure, as it emerges on the top of the traditional Viennese building, is the implicit elective affinity between two kinds of work that are so different. This might be due to the composite, imitative image the two objects suggest, as if they were entangled together in a coital embrace. There is, however, in addition a more abstract, equally fascinating relation between two architectural ways of worldmaking. Both have a long history, and both incorporate cognitive systems for thinking about the world through spatial-iconic categories: the one, the traditional classical canon based on coherence. closure, hierarchy; and the other, the anti-classical canon of incompleteness, openness and chaos.

It is not the first time one encounters such a sophisticated juxtaposition of cognitive systems of organizing space, the classical and the anti-classical. In the music of Arnold Schoenberg, for example, there is a longue durée conflict between tonality and dissonance which, in Schoenberg's words, enjoys a special, breathtaking 'renewed strife'. Bringing the products of the two rule systems face to face, or literally superimposing them, has obvious cognitive and aesthetic benefits which result from estrangement and foregrounding. And such a superimposition makes it easier better to capture each system's rules, implicit in the design of each artifact, through comparison and contrast. But one can also unexpectedly read desire, tenderness and passionate consummation in the interplay between these two apparently adversarial systems. And, in the representation of conflict resolution, there is perhaps a hidden motivation to produce an appropriate optimistic emblem for a legal practice.

Otto von Spreckelsen


(Paris, France) 1982-89

In 1982. 400 entries from more than 40 countries were submitted to the competition for an international communications centre in La Défense, the financial district of Paris located on the north-west edge of the city. After the final choice had been made by President François Mitterand on the basis of the plans submitted, according to the competition organizer Robert Lion, the envelope was opened and Johan Otto von Spreckelsen, a previously unknown Danish architect, was found to be the winner. He had built only his own house and two very small churches in his own country (RSA Journal. August, 1991). This is how one of the most monumental buildings of this century came into existence - a concrete cube measuring 110 metres across, hollowed out in the centre and dressed in white Carrara marble and glass, accommodating about 150,000 square metres of office space.

The building which seems simple is not. It rests on only twelve pillars, six on each side, a remarkably small number for such a colossal structure. In order to support it, the pillars are 60 square metres in area and their combined weight is twice that of the Eiffel Tower. The structural frame is made out of a solid piece of concrete, which had to be prestressed from every direction and needed suspension cables inside, as the building is in constant motion, in the order of 4 cm. Inclining the walls at a slight angle of 6 degrees helps to stabilize it. The site is crossed by railway tracks and roads, which made it difficult to place the feet of the

building in the ground. Another major technical oroblem was in the construction of the facade, itwas like 'a tailor making a suit on someone who kept moving all the time', according to Paul Andreu, Spreckelsen's French collaborator, who explained that this problem was solved by putting metal elements at precise oositions in the concrete and then adding a orefabricated element of glass, weighing 3 tons, all at the same time. Certainly, this construction method is an engineering feat but. from a technological point of view, the structure is not necessarily the best that could nave been achieved. A steel bearing system with panelling would have been more efficient, and could have had the same visual effect. However. Spreckelsen would consider such a solution architecturally dishonest.

The financing of the building was not simple either. In 1986, President Mitterand lost the elections and the new government of Jacques Chirac decided to put a stop to the project. According to Robert Lion, who was not only organizer of the competition, but also the main administrative planner of the project, the government told him, 'Please continue. Try to build your Arche if you can. But give the government back the money' which it had already paid. 'If you want to put a supermarket on the roof, it would be a good idea because it «wxjid recoup our money', the minister suggested. Instead. Lion, who was also chairman of the Société d'Économie Mixte Nationale Tète Défense and director-general of the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, the lead-ng institutional investor in France, created a société d'économie mixte, or joint company, with very low capital. Of this 45 per cent was provided by the state, 30 per cent by Lion's bank and the rest by public and private insurance companies. In other words, the Arche was paid for not only by the state, but also by private investors. It is, therefore, a mainly privately funded project, very different from President Mitterand's other Grands Profils. Furthermore, it is now an office building rather than an international communications centre, and only the roof belongs to the state.

Symbolically too the project was far from simple. The architect could have decided to design the building as a tower, the tradition for financial centres all over the world. Instead, he tried a delicate balancing act between invention and precedent by opting for a modern building in the form of a traditional triumphal arch. This decision resulted in a new hybrid artifact and contributed to the ambiguity of its interpretation as a symbolic, urban object, determined by the site's context. Indeed, the Orief called for a building which would terminate one of the most culturally loaded urban axes in the world, leading from the court of the Louvre (where I.M. Pei's Pyramid now stands, see pp. 226-29), through to the adjacent Arc du Carrousel, from there to the Place de la Concorde and then to the Arc de Triomphe. Spreckelsen himself saw his new arch as a window on the world', offering a 'view into the future'.

But another reading was proposed that was equally and. perhaps, even more convincing. As the Spanish architectural historian Juan Antonio Ramirez has pointed out, this axis is also an allegorical representation of 'the political evolution of mankind from the absolutism of the monarchy (Louvre) to the heroism of the Revolution (Concorde, Tuileries) then the grandeur of the empire and the 19th-century bourgeoisie (up the Champs Elysées), winding up at La Défense with the gradual silencing of the state and the triumph of capital'.

Seen from this perspective, the Arche appears as a monument symbolizing the culmination of a long path which, having linked a series of heroic historical events, leads nowhere, standing perhaps for the end of history, a self-deconstructing commentary on the Will to Progress. Such a teleological view of the axis implies a Hegelian belief in an inexorable historical march, although one that, alas, goes in the opposite direction from a 'progressive' one. The same Hegelian belief, when applied to the interpretation of the axis in terms of urban history, reveals the same kind of negative evolution. It suggests that the axis follows a descending path from the lost urban paradise of the past to the technocratic and bureaucratic hell of the present, reflecting the sad history of Paris's urban tissue, from an intricate web of functions and lifestyles, when the court of the Louvre was still occupied by houses and its rooms by workshops, to the highly segregated functional and social organization of La Défense.

Such highly critical interpretations have been triggered by the 'triumphal' associations implied by an architectural type like the arch. But what if a different historical prototype had been chosen, less loaded with ideas of power and monumentally? What if the prototype, for example, had been the Place Royale, with its traditional harmonious integration of dwellings, workplaces, leisure areas, greenery and art? Then La Défense, no doubt, would have been a truly new way of exploiting the air rights of the Parisian sky, and the project would probably have been more appropriate as a link between the Paris of the past and the Paris of the future, inviting less heroic interpretations perhaps, but also less apocalyptic ones. It would indeed have been a window onto the future in the sense that it would have been a new kind of architecture. It might have been seen, if not as a prototype, then as a laboratory for experiments for a new urban type, leading to a redefinition of the city and urban life on a higher level, literally as well as conceptually and technologically. It would have been a truly daring new vision of an urban architecture, echoing such designs as those of Vona Friedman for Paris in the mid-1960s, expanding the city above the traditional rooftop level, combined with a post-1968 vision of a green, emancipated urbanity, in new. unprecedented, fantastic ways.

(Opposite, left) Exterior view (Opposite, right) Plans (Above) View under the Arche

Pel Cobb Freed & Partners Architects GRAND LOUVRE

(Paris, France) 1981-89



This was the winning entry in the international competition organized directly under the French President François Mitterand. The competition called for an underground expansion of the old Louvre Museum, which would measure well over 46,000 square metres, with a new main entrance to be placed in the centre of the pre-existing U-shaped galleries for more direct access to the museum collections. The final design has increased technical and support facilities and public amenities by 160 per cent and has nearly doubled the exhibition areas. Now. with almost 130,000 square metres of space, the new Grand Louvre is the largest museum in the world and welcomes more than three million visitors a year.

The project also includes a new circulation network for the Cour Carrée, the courtyard of the Louvre. Previously a car park for the Ministry of Finance, which occupied the north wing of the old Louvre, it has been resurfaced with a geometric parterre in which three smaller pyramids and seven triangular reflecting pools have been set. inspired by, according to Pei, and in keeping with the strict geometrical spirit of the existing garden stretching from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde.

The pyramid, with a base of just over 35 metres, is the project's most significant feature. Serving as the top of the underground building and executed in glass, it is a very effective means of flooding the lower hall with light. At the same time, its inclined transparent walls, tapering to a peak just over 5 metres high, combine maximum visibility for the palace with minimum occupation of the famous Cour Carrée. In Pei's words, the struc ture has been designed for 'immateriality'. But there is more to it than unobtrusiveness.

The glass pyramid amalgamates the two disparate images of 'glass' and 'pyramid'. The resulting new artifact brings together the two images, 'aggressively throwing into doubt'-to use the expression of Mark Turner about literary metaphor - what we believe we knov. about each: that weight, robustness and impenetrability are indisputable properties of the pyramid, lightness, fragility and transparency those of glass. The amalgam is in fact a topos of classical poetics, an oxymoron that transcends. manipulates and finally invalidates our stereotypes about representation of know!-

edge. Here, not only is there no conflict between glass and pyramid in the new super-category 'glass pyramid', but we are handed what Turner calls a 'passport through the gates of categorization', a call to use our minds to invent rather than to abide by stereotypes.

The pyramid is made of glass panels which consist of two 10 mm sheets of laminated glass sealed with structural silicone (its first architectural application in France). Each panel is set into an aluminium frame whose minimal mullions, perfectly flush with the glazed surface, have been engineered to preserve the planarity of the crystalline prism. Guided solely by the search for the greatest possible structural lightness, Pei and his engineer from Quebec. Roger Nicolet, chose a hyper-static structure whose bars and members are exceptionally thin, but whose structural geometry is held to be unequalled in the world. All the bolts and articulations associated with 'high-tech' metal constructions nave been eliminated. The assembly is connected by handcrafted junctures, or nodes, which were cast by a 'lost-wax* process with a two-phase blasted finish in order to maximize streamlined smoothness. These fittings, like the rods they connect, were produced by a Massachusetts firm that specializes in rigging for America's Cup yachts, where lightness is all important. The glass is as 'white' as possible. The challenge lay in the production of glass in large enough panes of such clarity and absol-( ute flatness as to permit the facades of the louvre to be seen through them without distortion. The solution required two years of research and the revival of largely abandoned I methods of glass production by the French company Saint Gobain. The successful result was hailed as an engineering feat and a symbol of French-American collaboration.

(Right) The pyramid and main entrance seen through the pre-existing building


(Above left) Ground floor plan

(Above right) Plan of reception and entrance hall level

(Centre) Site section

(Below) Night view of the courtyard

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