New York and Paris
Bernard Tschumi is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost architects. First known as a theorist, he drew attention to his innovative architectural practice in 1983 when he won the prestigious competition for the Parc de La Villette, a 125-acre cultural park based on activities as much as nature. The intertwining concepts of “event” and “movement” in architecture are supported by Tschumi’s belief that architecture is the most important innovation of our time. Tschumi often references other disciplines in his work, such as literature and film, proving that architecture must participate in culture’s polemics and question its foundations.
Since then, he has made a reputation for groundbreaking designs that include the new Acropolis Museum; Le Fresnoy National Studio for the Contemporary Arts; the Vacheron-Constantin Headquarters; The Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center at the University of Cincinnati; two concert halls in Rouen and Limoges, and architecture schools in Marne-la-Vallée, France and Miami, Florida, as well as the Alésia Archaeological Center and Museum among other projects. The office’s versatility extends to infrastructure projects and master plans. Major urban design projects recently executed or in implementation under Tschumi’s leadership include master plans in Beijing, Shenzhen, New York, Montreal, Chartres, Lausanne, and Santo Domingo, with a new city for 40,000 residents. Recently completed are the Hague Passage and Hotel in the Netherlands, a Philharmonic Hall for Le Rosey, near Geneva, an expansion of the headquarters for Vacheron Constantin, and a major renovation and redesign of the Paris Zoo. The Exploratorium, a 50,000 sf Museum for the Industry and the City, opens in 2017, in Tianjin.
Tschumi was awarded France’s Grand Prix National d’Architecture in 1996 as well as numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. He is also an international fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in England and a member of the Collège International de Philosophie and the Académie d’Architecture in France, where he has been the recipient of distinguished honors that include the rank of Officer in both the Légion d’Honneur and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Tschumi’s Acropolis Museum was honored as a finalist for European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2011, and an Honor Award from the AIA the same year.
The many books devoted to Tschumi’s writings and architectural practice include a comprehensive monograph, titled Architecture Concepts: Red is Not a Color, narrates Tschumi’s career in work and ideas since the 1970s and was published by Rizzoli in 2012, the four-part Event-Cities series (MIT Press, 1994, 2000, 2005, and 2010); The Manhattan Transcripts (Academy Editions and St. Martin’s Press, 1981 and 1994); Architecture and Disjunction (MIT Press, 1994, translated in eight languages); and the monograph Tschumi (Universe/Thames and Hudson, English version, and Skira, Italian version, 2003). A series of conversations with the architect has been published by The Monacelli Press under the title Tschumi on Architecture (2006). Other recent publications include a French and English language biography on Tschumi by Gilles de Bure and The New Acropolis Museum, published by Skira / Rizzoli and the important catalogue by the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2014).
A graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Tschumi has taught architecture at a range of institutions including the Architectural Association in London, Princeton University, and The Cooper Union in New York. He is a Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation where he was Dean from 1988 to 2003. Tschumi is a permanent resident of the United States and has French and Swiss citizenship.
Tschumi’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Pompidou Center in Paris, as well as other museums and art galleries in the United States and Europe.
Alésia Museum and Archaeological Park
Alésia, Burgundy, France 2003-2012
The scheme consists of two separate but related structures. One building is a museum located at the position of the Gauls during the siege at the top of the hill above the town. A second building is an interpretive center located at the Roman position in the fields below. The museum is built of stones, similar in look to the town buildings but with contemporary technology, and is buried partially into the hill so that from above it appears as an extension of the landscape. The interpretative center is built of wood, much as the Roman fortifications would have been at the time of the siege. The roof of the building is a garden planted with trees and grass, camouflaging the presence of the building when seen from the town above. A keen awareness of the surrounding landscape as it pertains to the historic battle is integral to the visitors’ experience.
The project creates two buildings with a simple, cylindrical shape. The envelopes adapt through materials to their surroundings, while the form of the buildings is de-emphasized. By pairing the structures, committing to integrating the buildings with the landscape, and using a simple round building typology, the buildings manage to defer to the battle site while fostering a sense of respect and awe through a muted formal presence. The strategies of giving maximum presence to historical events and respecting the sensitive insertion of buildings into their natural environment respond to the ambition of the project while reflecting the imperative of modesty demanded by archaeologists. To be both visible and invisible is the paradox and challenge of the project.
This public-private partnership, or PPP, resulted from a competition process involving three of Europe’s largest construction firms and associated architectural teams: Bernard Tschumi et al with Bouygues Construction, Herzog and de Meuron with Vinci Construction, and MVRDV with Eiffage. The competition lasted two and a half years, with precise client requests including a complex program and tight cost-control and energy-saving requirements.
The architectural concept of the METRO site, coordinated by Bernard Tschumi Architects, consists of a chain of six separate but interlinked buildings that act as an interior street, a common denominator, and a social space for the whole complex, joining together three different scientific disciplines.
Facing north, a fully glazed building opens onto the main axis of the site and acts as the heart of the complex. It includes social spaces and auditoria, a small museum, administration, and applied research facilities. To the east are research laboratories; to the west lie teaching facilities and the southern access-point of the site.
All facades opening to the north and all connecting bridges are fully glazed, while the south, east, and west facades are made of high-quality white precast-concrete panels with fins. (METRO will be the office’s first white building!)
The scale of the different parts of the complex varies depending on their functions and their locations on the site. For example, the glazed facades on the main campus axis are 25 meters high (approximately 82 feet) and incorporate six levels, but the volumes located near small existing constructions have been designed with three levels each.
The project was developed simultaneously in both of Bernard Tschumi’s offices: BTA in New York (Joel Rutten, co-director) and BTuA in Paris (Véronique Descharrières, partner and co-director). Groupe-6 was charged with the interior organization of the research component, a major part of the complex.
Parc de la Villette
The design for the Parc de la Villette was selected from over 470 international competitors. The objectives of the competition were both to mark the vision of an era and to act upon the future economic and cultural development of a key area in Paris. As described in the competition, La Villette was not intended as a simple landscape replica; on the contrary, the brief for this “urban park for the 21st century” developed a complex program of cultural and entertainment facilities.
La Villette could be conceived of as one of the largest buildings ever constructed — a discontinuous building but a single structure nevertheless, overlapping the site’s existing features and articulating new activities. It opposes the landscape notion of Olmsted, widespread during the 19th century, that “in the park, the city is not supposed to exist.” Instead, it proposes a social and cultural park with activities that include workshops, gymnasium and bath facilities, playgrounds, exhibitions, concerts, science experiments, games and competitions, in addition to the Museum of Science and Technology and the City of Music on the site. At night during the summer, the broad playing fields become an open-air movie theater for 3,000 spectators. The park currently accommodates around eight million visitors a year.