Schinkelplatz Housing Project 187

Dominique Perrault Architecte


(Cité Descartes, Marne-la-Vallée, France) 1985-1987

Perrault's building resembles a colossal. 40,000-square-metre computer keyboard rising on the edge of the superhighway in the heart of the Cité Descartes, the green-belt science park of Marne-la-Vallée. on the outskirts of Paris. The building houses the 1100 students and faculty of the prestigious College for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, which specializes in advanced micro and optical electronics, robotics and computer science.

Perrault has said that he was influenced by land art in the conception of this enormous plastic structure, which gracefully fits the contours of the site. Equally successful are the interior public circulation spaces. But the most significant feature of the project is the use of innovative materials and techniques of construction and the rich visual effects of celebration it achieves through them.

This cathedral to computation manifests an almost mystical, obsessive fascination with photogenic, artificial materials and the light effects associated with them. It successfully transcends the tackiness which might so easily have been attributed to it because of the presence of so much plastic and the naive use of the computer icon to shape the scheme. In fact, it brings to mind Abbot Suger's comments about the materials used in St-Denis, which show an equally obsessive and mystical fascination with the light-reflecting qualities of precious stones - sardius, topaz, jasper.

chrysolite, onyx, sapphires, carbuncles and emeralds. Indeed, Perrault boasts, above 39 else, of the use of building materials anc techniques: silicone-jointed structural glazing, for example, already standard in the USA and Britain, but first introduced in France in LM. Pei's Pyramid of the Grand Louvre (pp. 226-29). This technique is employed in most oftne building's exterior and interior, in the north east and south facades of the library, the main entrance and the restaurant. Polyester in the form of tiles is also used in cladding the inclined plane of the building. Their composition is described with something approaching wonderment in the project description 'These panels are 6 metres long and 1.20

(Opposite) The glass wall

(Above) Volumetric plan

(Top centre) Detail of the exterior

(Top right) Aerial view of the building and Its surroundings

(Right) The interior metres wide; they have been fabricated thanks toa perfectly smooth metal mould in which the | following layers were superimposed: a demoulding agent, a layer of gelcoat. a coat of I esin, a coat of fibreglass. a coat of resin, a coat of foam, a coat of fibreglass, a coat of I 'esin.' Acrylic and polycarbon are used for the gallery concourse toptighting which takes the form of double bowstring strutted 'lenses' to control solar gain. Finally, PVC fabric is | stretched over laminated arches throughout I the forebuilding where it provides an economi-:al false ceiling, and is continued uninterrupted beneath skylights where it acts as a light diffuser. as well as in the canopy covering the entrance to the building.

Christian de Portzamparc CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE

(Paris, France) 1984-90

Conceived as a 'city within the city', a work composed of many compositions, a spatial structure expressing the 'art of movement" and 'made for sound', this project sits at the southern entrance of the Pare de la Villette, one of the last in the Grands Projets series of President Mitterand.

The highly heterogeneous character of the complex emerged out of its intricate, multifunctional programme, 'a unique collection of places devoted to music and dance'. The building is divided roughly into two zones. The western zone is devoted to teaching and study; it also contains large halls for group rehearsals. This zone is itself partitioned further into 'four north-south bands separated by hallways of light'.

In the centre of the complex there is an interior court, a patio and a cloistered garden seven metres below street level. The conical form belongs to the organ hall next to the theatre shell.

The activities housed in the eastern zone are more public. The zone contains an elliptical cylinder-shaped concert hall (capacity 1200 persons) for symphonic music and contemporary performances, a Museum of Music (for listening to and viewing one of the most beautiful collections of instruments in the world), a Centre for Organ Studies, an amphitheatre, the headquarters of the Ensem ble Intercontemporain, the Institute of Music Instruction, student residences and shops specializing in music. As with the western zone, the eastern is further divided into explicitly articulated locations, each housing an individual activity. All the locations are joined by a circulation network stressing the integrity of each space and the transparency of the overall volume.

The plurality of elements which make up the spatial composition did not result only from the nature of the programme. It was also the outcome of the anti-monistic design principle of de Portzamparc: a building should not be an arbitrarily shaped, universal envelope, but a multiform assemblage of volumes and facades responding to the different conditions of the site, some requesting openness, some suggesting insularity, some a symmetrical treatment, some an asymmetrical, free, geometric design. 'What more natural', de Portzamparc writes, 'than that a building [should] propose all kinds of different faces ... No one side should be more decisive than the others ... they are all different, without expressing a hierarchy'.

In addition to the compositional motivation, there are several other benefits to be derived from a spatial arrangement of such highly particularized units which, de Portzamparc believes, the project achieves. First, the effect

(Above left) Underground plan

(Above) Isometric projection with section view of the concert hall

(Opposite) Views from the court

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