Parc de la villette

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Parc de la Villette, Paris
Bernard Tschumi designer J. Daniel Pugh LARC 263 November 16, 2004 The Context Paper

This paper is written to help people know Bernard Tschumi and how he came to be the designer for one of the few remaining large sites available within the city of Paris, which became the Parc de le Villette. This is his story.

Parc de le Villette issited on the former location of the Paris slaughterhouses (Tschumi, Tschumi 32), and has a total area of 125 acres. The parc encompasses 186,000 sq.ft. of restaurants, art workshops, music pavilions, recreation facilities and gardens, as well as 70,000 sq.ft of galleries and bridges and 70 acres of landscaping.

Bernard Tscumi spent half of his childhood in Lausanne,Switzerland and half in Paris, France due to the fact that his mother was French and his father was Swiss. His father studied architecture in Paris, and at the end of WWII he set up the School of Architecture of the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne. Because Tscumi spent so much time in both Lausanne and Paris, he felt that he was not limited to having only one nationality. As an adult he enjoyedliving in New York because he felt there was no such thing as “nationality” there.

Tschumi spent the formative years from childhood to adulthood living in apartments within cities. Because he never lived in a house or in the country, he is very much “of the city,” a world he knows very well.

Tschumiwas not particularly interested in either the real or virtual worlds, separately, but he was attracted to the tension between those two worlds. He felt that when the real and the virtual worlds come together, tension is created and the potential for design begins. (Tschumi, Tschumi 23) In 1982 Tschumi wanted to test his ideas in competitions with other architects, and he entered the competitionfor the design of the Parc de le Villette against 470 other designers. Up to this point, he believed his architecture would be purely theoretical. However, he surprised himself and won the competition, the first he ever entered. Such an unexpected victory was equivalent to winning the Kentucky Derby without ever having raced a horse before! (Tschumi, Tschumi 32)

In Tschumi’s mind the Parc dele Villette was not a park but a new type of city. Despite the fact that he started with an old industrial site, he decided that his design would not be contextual nor would it recreate or refer to things from the old site. Instead, he was starting from a pure concept, and for inspiration he looked at general concepts of large organizations and how they fit into the city of Paris. After testingthe superimpositions of abstract concepts about organization, he decided the point-grid system worked best and that the concept of the discontinuous city would be the starting point for his design of the parc. (Tschumi, Tschumi 32,44) When Tschumi first made his design presentation to President Mitterand, he brought four park designs with him: First was the 18th century park at Versailles; secondwas the 19th century park of Les Buttes-Chaumont in Paris; third was a 20th century park, Brazilia, under construction; and fourth he presented La Villette as the new 21st century park. (Tschumi, Tschumi 45) Tschumi’s design of the Parc de la Villette is anticontextual, has no relation to its surroundings, and subverts borders on which “context” depends. (Lissarrague vi) While Tschumi had resistedthe idea of ‘contextualism’ for Parc de le Villette, it does work well within its context. The axis of the 19th Century cast- iron market hall is not quite perpendicular to the canal, and this allows the north-south gallery to travel slowly from the west to the east and move across the grid of the folies. The folies run precisely parallel to the canal and the line of movement challenges the...
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