PARC DE LA VILLETTE, FRANCE, PARIS, 1982
Masterplan for the Parc de la Villette in Paris
The program by the city of Paris was too large for the site, leaving no space for a park. The proposed project is not for a definitive park, but for a method that - combining programmatic instability with architectural specificity - will eventually generate a park.
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The idea comprises 5 steps:
1. The major programmatic components are distributed in horizontal bands across the site, creating a continuous atmosphere in its length and perpendicular, rapid change in experience.
2. Some facilities - kiosks, playgrounds, barbecue spots are distributed mathematically according to different point grids.
3. The addition of a "round forest” as architectural elements.
4. Connections
5. Superimpositions

In the second phase, the nature element was elaborated in the form of a series of "wings”, that created - as in a theater - the illusion of a park without consuming the territory that was needed for the overabundance of activities.

Elegy for the Vacant Lot
The permanence of even the most frivolous item of architecture and the instability of the metropolis are incompatible.

In this conflict the metropolis is, by definition, the victor; in its pervasive architecture is reduced to the status of plaything, tolerated as décor for the illusions of history and memory. In Manhattan this paradox is resolved in a brilliant way: through the development of a mutant architecture that combines the aura of monumentality with the performance of instability. Its interiors accommodate compositions of program and activity that change constantly and independently of each other without affecting what is called, with accidental profundity, the envelope.

The genius of Manhattan is the simplicity of this divorce between appearance and performance: it keeps the illusion of architecture intact, while surrendering wholeheartedly to the needs of the metropolis.

This architecture relates to the forces of the Groszstadt like a surfer to the waves. In the seventies, architects wallowed, on the contrary, in fantasies of control.

Looking back at history they rediscovered not only old forms, a new erudition arrested at the first page of the history book - the door, the column, the architrave, the keystone – but also the symptoms of a former power and status – the endless axes, the impressive symmetries, the vast compositions. Were they not the work of architects?

Inflated by nostalgic dreams of omnipotence, its consciousness as much enriched as eroded by an exclusive concentration on form, the profession faced the end of the 20th century in a confident mood. Ambiguous illustrations of this fact were a series of great competitions (mass graves without tombstones: never has a single profession been so shamelessly drained of energy and money as architecture in the past 15 years), each the potential beginning of a triumphal march towards a new kind of city, a new urbanity.

In the first La Villette competition (1976), the architects were free to propose a whole new quartier – a fragment of the new, more humane city of the future. Offered the opportunity to imagine an ideal episode of late 20th century life, hurtling en plein vitesse towards the third millennium, they proposed, finally, an environment fit for glass blowers and horseshoers driving prewar Citroëns.
Later – half emboldened by what? – this call to arms for the reconstruction of the European city became even more arrogant and dogmatic in militancy of its declarations. Shame to all those who signed the declaration of Palermo!

Meanwhile, OMA’s imagination – rigorously out of sync – was consumed by twin preoccupations: program (simple interest in what happens), which seemed the unrealized project of a marginal band of modern architecture; and the phenomena of Manhattan, which seemed, in many ways, its casual materialization. A combination could define a plausible relationship of architecture, modernity, and the metropolis (their home base).

The second La Villette competition (1982) seemed to offer the ingredients for a complete investigation of the potential for a European Culture of Congestion. Here was the par excellence metropolitan condition of Europe: a terrain vague between the historical city – itself raped by the greedy needs of the 20th century – and the plankton of the banlieue; on it, two pieces of history marooned like spaceships. It was one of those nothingnesses of still infinite potential that in this case could be preserved since its program could not be expressed in form, a program that insisted on its own stability.

If the essence of Delirious New York was the section of the Downtown Athletic Club – a turbulent stacking of metropolitan life in ever-changing configurations; a machine that offered redemption through a surfeit of hedonism; a conventional, even boring, skyscraper; a program as daring as ever imagined in this century – La Villette could be more radical by suppressing the three-dimensional aspect almost completely and proposing pure program instead, unfettered by any containment.

In this analogy, the bands across the site were like the floors of the tower, each program different and autonomous, but modified and “polluted” through the proximity of all others. Their existence was as unstable as any regime would want to make them. The only “stability” was offered by the natural elements – the rows of trees and the round forest – whose instability was ensured simply through growth.

What La Villette finally suggested was the pure exploitation of the metropolitan condition: density without architecture, a culture of “invisible” congestion.

FACT SHEET
Project:
Materplan for the Parc de la Villette in Paris

Client:
City of Paris

Year:
1982

Status:
Competition

Type:
Masterplan

Location:
Paris, France

Site:
A 550,000m2 former slaughterhouse in north-western Paris, bordered on the north by the Périphérique, the Science Museum and the Grande Halle.

Program:
entertainment facilities (7,500m2); cultural information center (300m2); kiosks for small shows, games, temporary exhibits (1,200m2); temporary exhibits (1,200m2); discovery workshops (7,100m2); discovery gardens (20,500m2); greenhouses (10,000m2); children's discovery spaces (11,200m2); space for permanent exhibits (3,200m2); theme gardens (30,500m2); outdoor ice skating rink (1,200m2); playgrounds ((60,000m2); outdoor hard-surface sports facilities (10,000m2); children’s play areas (16,000m2); bathing/water elements (10,250m2); restaurants (5,000); catering (3,300 m2); snack bars (2,000 m2); picnic areas (2,750m2); reception zones (2,200m2); day-care facilities (2,500m2); urban services (500m2); shops (300m2); accessory rental (300m2); market (6,000m2); offices (500m2); circulation (35,000m2); maintenance (4,200m2); fire, police, and technical services (1,000m2); first aid (200m2); lavatories (200m2); parking (17,800m2); parking (17,800m2)

CREDITS

Architect:
Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, with Kees Christiaanse, Stefano de Martino, Ruurd Roorda, Ron Steiner, Jan Voorberg, Alex Wall.

Landscape:
Claire and Michel Corajoud

Model:
Chiel van der Stelt, Hans Werlemann