Concrete in the rotunda

Tadao Ando has transformed a 250-year-old former commodities exchange in Paris into a new contemporary museum for the Pinault Collection. The Pritzker Prize winner has inserted a richly-contrasting horizontal line into the venerable rotunda beneath which fair-faced concrete shimmers gently.
by Jeanette Kunsmann | 1/28/2021

Professional boxer, winner of the Pritzker Prize, and purist: Tadao Ando is a self-taught architect who has enriched Japanese architecture since the 1970s with his consistently minimalist style and love of concrete. From the late 1980s, he has worked internationally with projects variously in New York, Texas and Venice, but also in Weil am Rhein and in Neuss, Bad Münster, and most recently in Paris. In the latter city he has pulled off a new coup with the modernization and conversion of the former 18th-century Paris commodities exchange into a private museum for modern and contemporary art: die “Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection”. Set in an outstanding location in the first arrondissement between Louvre, Centre Pompidou, and Les Halles, Tadao Ando’s cylindrical fair-faced concrete will attract architecture fans from around the world. Although long since completed, the scheduled opening had to be postponed a second time on account of the pandemic. And meanwhile five years have lapsed since the proud announcement that the French entrepreneur, billionaire and art collector François Pinault was planning to install a museum for contemporary and modern art in the former stock exchange. For three years the Bourse de Commerce was sheathed in scaffolding and tarpaulin sheets. For a project of this scale in a listed building that involved renovation and modernization measures an unusually speedy procedure. Unlike other institutions, the Pinault Collection evidently wastes no time about things.

The original building itself is impressive enough in its own right. And indeed, the architectural history of this sublime stand-alone structure is characterized by alteration measures and reconstruction work. First erected in 1763 as a round building by Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières that was used as a silo in 1782 its inner courtyard was covered with a glass dome by Jacques-Guillaume Legrand and Jacques Molinos, while from 1806 it was restored by François-Joseph Bélanger und François Brunet following a fire, before being converted into a commodities exchange from 1875 to 1888 by Henri Blondel. Since the end of the 19th century the rotunda has been used by the Paris Chamber of Industry and Trade and has been protected as a listed building since 1975. When, back in 2015, Lady Mayor Anne Hidalgo suggested that Pinault use the Bourse de Commerce as his Paris outlet the latter did not hesitate for a moment. Tadao Ando was the natural choice for converting the rotunda. After all, following his Pinault projects in Venice for the Palazzo Grassi (2006), the Punta della Dogana (2009) and Teatrino (2013) the Japanese architect can be considered the personal architect for the Pinault Collection; the client himself refers to Tadao Ando as a “compagnon”. The aim of the project team made up of TAAA Tadao Ando Architect and Associates, Studio NeM / Niney et Marca Architectes in Paris and the two restorers Pierre-Antoine Gatier and Setec Bâtiment was to create a subtle dialog between new and old that fits into the existing structure and “breathes new life into it”. Ando understands “architecture as a link between the past, present and future.”

With a diameter of 29 meters the fair-faced concrete cylinder complements the space beneath the venerable glass dome and the ceiling fresco from the 19th century featuring a panorama of trade. The five-meter-wide gap between the concrete wall and the existing structure surrounding it forms the so-called “passage”. As a vertical element the cylinder connects the second basement level to the third level and finishes as an open circular platform at a height of nine meters allowing visitors to observe the listed ceiling fresco from close up and discover its details. The formal reduction to simple geometries such as rectangle, cylinder and circles can be traced to early modernism. Tadao Ando’s love of concrete as a building material goes back to the work of Le Corbusier, whom the Japanese architect has admired from the start. As such, the centrally placed cylinder installation not only physically links the upper and lower floors within the rotunda but also acts as a temporal link between past, present and future and combines a classic architectural shape with modernist building material. Since the fair-faced concrete was cast in situ as a wall element (the structure consists of metal frames with a hollow core), Ando’s insertion could also easily be removed from the listed building again. As such, this confident intervention in the old building is more sensitive than might be assumed at first sight and conceived firmly in line the basic principles of the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments (1964). The latter states that replacement of missing parts “must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence”.

The “Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection” boasts ten exhibition spaces plus an auditorium and a black-box theater for video projections in the basement. The foyer around the auditorium is to be used for performances and installations. Gourmets can enjoy the cuisine of French star chefs Michel und Sébastian Bras on the third floor. Located in the “Halle aux Grains” the restaurant’s design and fittings are the work of Paris studio NeM / Niney et Marca Architectes in collaboration with the designer brothers Erwan und Ronan Bouroullec, who are also responsible for furnishing the museum and outside spaces. And so, guests enjoy the Bras cuisine while sitting on the forged iron chairs of the Magis collection Officina, while their comfortable seats in front of and inside the Pinault Museum are based on tubular aluminum complemented in the outdoor spaces by bronze elements and the circle of granite paving. All in all, a well-rounded concept in other words and when Tadao Ando turns 80 this September the Bourse de Commerce and restaurant should be up and running. “My entire life I have tried to design a building so that you feel like returning to it,” the architect likes to say. He has most certainly succeeded in doing that in Paris.

Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection

2 rue de Viarmes
75001 Paris
Tel.. +33 (0) 1 55 04 60 60

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