Park of La Villette: Architecture of the Signifier


In 1982 was held a contest for the urban renewal area of the Villette in the northeast corner of Paris. The winning design by Bernard Tschumi away of all design conventions of public spaces previously developed, breaking the rooted tradition the Parisian garden.

To 40 years to its gestation the complex project is considered the initial point in the road traveled for the architectural neo vanguards in the design of the urban spaces.

The concourse of Parc de la Villette formed part the renewal process the wide of Paris city where are once was installed the slaughterhouse and the meat market closed in 1974.

The communal authorities organized in 1976 a concourse chaired for the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and a jury integrated among others by the architects Renzo Piano, Arata Isozaki and Vittorio Gregotti, and the landscape Paul Frieuerberg and Jacques Simon.

Is presented 472 projects of which the jury selected 9 for a second phase. Finally, in March of 1983 by not reach consensus for any works the jury decided reward to design by Tschumi who obtained the most votes.

Of the original elements constituting the place were maintained the “Grande Halle” and the channel de L’ourrcq.

The winner project based his proposal in the creation of a large urban area that despites the changes suffered from the awards to the final draft maintained the essence of his conception.

The architecture of the park is considered by its author as “architecture of signifier more than the significance”. The result of the project is product of simultaneous design processes from analysis and decomposition of the program in a series of fragments and its reorganization around autonomous systems and the definition of movement of the site. From these operations are defined the three systems that structure:

•             An objects system represented by points

•             A movement system represented by lines

•             A spaces system represented by surfaces

The layer or system of point is constituted by a grid of 120 x 120 meters that eliminates any hierarchy within the structure of the park treating the whole as a uniform grid.

The points of intersection determine where are localized the references built, the “Folies”. The second layer constructed by lines is represented by the galleries. The third layer of surface is represented by the areas of pavement, grass and trees.

The superposition of the three systems leads to situations at random and conflict. Giving from to the spatial structure of the park a progression to the text of landscape Michael Corajoud, who in analogy to Archimedes palimpsest defined the contemporary park as a superposition of the trace of the English park on the trace of the French park.

The Folies are designed from a cube structure of 10,80 x 10,80 meters with different formal processes. According Tschumi, the Folies may originate from a programmatic operation and vary over time, or a combination formally from the deconstruction of the cube in confined space or moving elements represented as ramps o steps.

The Folies are the major milestone in space originated in the attraction of the red and its repetitive feature in the park. Of the 35 Folies projected were built 26, the majority contains specific functions.

The galleries that run site from north to south parallel to Grande Halle, is a large pergola wavy that accentuates the sense of movement and the gallery which crosses from east to west runs parallel to the large channel as elevate walkway connecting different Folies.

The gardens surfaces are organized trace that contain activities and are part of a cinematic tour organized between the coordinate axes and the large geometries. Each garden covers approximately 600m2 differentiating traditional gardens of the host children’s activities and spaces for recreation.

To collaborate on the project Bernard Tschumi invites the architects Nouvel, Eisenman, Piñon y Viaplana and others, however part of the works not materialize for the rescission prevailing in France in those years.

Today the park encompasses 35 hectares in an area of 55 hectares, that contains in the far north the “Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie” projected in the structure of the old disused slaughterhouse, and the “Géode”, an huge mirror ball witch host a cinema hemispheric of 1.000 m2, both works by Adrien Fainsilber opened in 1986, and in the southern the “Grande Halle de La Villette”, a structure for the sale of livestock constructed in 1867 by Jules de Meridol and the “Cite de la Musique”, work by Christian de Portzamparc in 1995 that houses the museum of music an amphitheater and a concert hall.

The Parc de La Villette is an urban space of many references which is by features and content is one of the most important public spaces designed in recent decades and a reference model of the conformation of the XXI century urban space.

credit photos: Marcelo Gardinetti; Credit drawings: Bernard Tschumi

by Marcelo Gardinetti

Park of La Villette


One thought on “Park of La Villette: Architecture of the Signifier

  1. Pingback: Park of La Villette: Architecture of the Signifier | ARTICULOS PUBLICADOS EN TECNNE

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