Perched in the southeastern corner of Parc de la Villette in Paris, the new Philharmonie de Paris building makes its presence forcefully with its gigantic looming form which many say resembles a crashed spaceship. With its creative and iconic combination of boxy and angled and organic forms, this imposing structure is a fitting new addition to modern architecture in Paris and is just as controversial as many of the city’s previous ground breaking structures such as the Eiffel Tower, the Center Pompidou, and the very recently completed Vuitton Museum by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.
To add to its notoriety, the building was two years late in completion, cost three times its original budget, and was disavowed by its celebrated architect Jean Nouvel who boycotted the grand opening ceremony due to news reports blaming him for the cost overruns and his disdain for some of the client’s modifications to the design and allowing for the opening to occur before the building was finished and the concert hall’s acoustics tested.
The overall form of the Philharmonie initially appears as a series of boxy and angled shapes that have all been raised high up in the air and then dropped, allowing each shape to land in arbitrary positions that ultimately forms an interesting and intriguing composition of elements that does resemble a crashed spaceship (think “Independence Day”) with its innards hanging out. It is especially fun to walk around the structure on the numerous pedestrian paths and explore the different textures and forms which are overall totally out of scale with us mere humans.
The overall color is a dull grey produced by two-tone porcelain bird-shaped tiles used on the pedestrian passages as well as on the building façade. All this is embellished with a basket-weave of polished aluminum panels on an undulating organic form which resembles either an oozing lava flow or a bulging belly. The main approach is via a long slopping ramp from which the visitor is confronted with an enormous rise of steps which gives a feeling of direction but also a daunting exercise to enter. The steps would make a great place for sitting and people watching, however, they were void of this during my visit.
The interior is composed of a 2400 seat concert hall described as an “intergalactic womb”, and assorted exhibition spaces, restaurants, rehearsal rooms, and educational spaces. I was unable to visit the interior but will attempt to on my next visit to Paris(spring 2017).
If you are an architect, or artist, or fan of modern architecture, or just curious to see cutting-edge ground-breaking architecture, the Paris Philharmonie is a must-see and even better, attend a performance there. I would caution those with young children though, they may be very frightened.