Stainless steel as a mirror of movement
Glittering hill that culminates to 52 meters in height by a giant screen on which is displayed its program, Paris’s Philharmonic Society designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel
captures the eye from the ring road and the surrounding suburbs. Its establishment on the north-east border of the capital, in the heart of the city, imposes itself
straight away as a benchmark of the Greater-Paris and affirms a desire to popularise the music that it represents. It marks the completion of the cultural mutation on this
sector of the 19th arrondissement, formerly dedicated to slaughterhouses - the transformed Grande Halle testifies to it - more than 30 years after its launch.
Thanks to its national and international dimension, it crowns all the facilities that mark out the Parc de la Villette, in particular the Cité de la Musique, which was delivered
in 1995 by the architect Christian de Portzamparc, which it completes: the two buildings are now part of a group called Philharmonie 1 and 2.
In addition to the large philharmonic hall dubbed Pierre Boulez of 2,400 seats (3,600 people in the standing configuration), which develops on five levels, the Philharmonic
includes two large rehearsal rooms for orchestra, six rehearsal rooms, several work studios, an administrative centre, an educational centre, exhibition spaces, catering
areas and shops. Concerts but also exhibitions, educational activities, residences, make the building live. Several accesses are possible to enter. One from the Parc
de la Villette on the ground floor, passing “under” the building. Another by climbing the steps of a vast staircase by which one joins the large philharmonic hall.
A ramp slopes gently upwards from the Pantin gate and also reaches this hall. As on a hill, it is possible to climb a zigzag course on the north side of the building to reach
the Belvedere set up at a height of 37 meters above the ground and which offers a panoramic view of the city. The various courses take part in the freedom of apprehension
offered to the users, as an invitation to take possession of the site without preconception. “Place of life for music”, its singular plastic reflects the fluidity sought
between spaces and people, whether they are artists, technicians, public, or simple prospects.
Mirror of movement
Outside, the metal cladding of its angular shapes or, conversely, curves distortfully reflect the landscape and the movements surrounding it, blurring the distances and
scales. The elements collide. As an allusion to Mr C. Escher, the main pattern of the facades, assembles seven different models of a stylised bird to constitute the aluminium
coating in four tints of matt grey: according to light, clouds of birds recompose. Overhanging these flat, sharp-edged façades, the heart of the building is covered
with a bright stainless steel plate (Uginox Bright appearance). Designated as the Tourbillon and developed by the HDA office, this volume thus highlighted seems to
escape from inside. It corresponds to the common spaces of the large philharmonic hall.
The construction of this curved wall requires its breakdown into two distinct skins - the outer cladding and a watertight wall inside - each defined by distinct geometric
principles. The space between the two allows access for maintenance. With a surface area of almost 7,000 m2, the garment is an assembly of stainless steel fragments,
implemented in a geometry-free form determined by the architectural study.
The geometry is defined by a NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Spile) surface of reference. It is characterised by a mixture of zones of double convex, concave curves
and, in some places, almost flat. With a thickness of 1.5 mm, the stainless steel sheets are fixed on a three-dimensional structural system combining flat plates for the
frames and curved tubes. Connecting rod plies ensure the connection to the edges of the floors. At the level of the windows, the gaps between the flat surface of the
large windows and the twisted surface of the waterproof skin in which they are inserted are corrected by the window frames.
In contrast to the matt envelope, the shiny appearance of the stainless steel intensifies the relief it moulds. Besides its aesthetic appearance, its low roughness helps
to limit the deposition of dust and pollution residues. The particularly aggressive atmosphere linked to the proximity of the ring road justified the choice of an austenitic
stainless steel grade (Aperam 316L).