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DESIGNS

PUIS NIN[T[[NTH

ARRONDISS[M[NT

PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS

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"In madness equilibrium is established, but it masks that equilibrium beneath the cloud of illu
sion, beneath feigned disorder; the rigor of the architecture is concealed beneath the cunning
arrangement of the disordered violences, "-Michel Foucault,

M ad ness and Civilization,

"Cinegram.'
spaces)

not a fixed, unique or even repeated object; but a combir:ation (of objects or
A notation of images and movements
Writing in movement
Discontinuous con

tinuous, "
"Madness would then be a word in perpetual discordance with itself and interrogative
throughout, so that it would question its own possibility, and therefore the possibility of the
language that would contain it, thus it would question language . itself, since the latter also
belongs to the game of language, "-Maurice Blanchot
"The world for us, has become infinite, meaning that we cannot refuse it the possibility to lend
itself to an infinity of interpretations, "-Nietszche,

Le Gai Savoir

I. CINEGRAM FOLIE 1987

PLAN OF PARIS WITH SITES OF "GRANDS PROJETS" AND EXISTING PARKS

The competition for the Parc de la Villette was organized by the French Government i n 1 982.
Its objectives were both to mark the vision of an e ra and to act upon the future economic and
cultu ral development of a key area i n Paris. As with other " G rands Projets, " such as the Opera
at Bastil le, the Louvre Pyramid or the Arch at Tete- Defense, the Parc de la Villette was the
center of numerous polemics, fi rst at the time of the competition, when landscape desig ners
violently opposed the chal lenges of architects, then d u ri ng governmental changes and various
general budgetary crises.
The Parc de la Vil lette is located on one of the last remain ing large sites in Paris, a 125-acre
expanse previou sly occupied by the central slaughter houses and situated on the Northeast
corner of the City, between the Metro stations Porte de Pantin and Porte de la Villette. Over one
kilometer long i n one direction and seven h u n d red meters in the other, La Vil lette appears as a
mu ltiple programmatic fiel d , containing , in add ition to the park, a large M useum of Science and
Industry, a C ity of Music , a G rande Halle for exhibitions, and a rock concert hal l .
Despite its name, t h e park a s desig nated i n t h e competition was t o b e no simple landscape
replica. On the contrary, the brief for this "Urban Park for the 21st Centu ry" develops a com
plex program of cultu ral and entertainment facilities encompassi ng open air theaters, restau
rants, art galleries, m usic and pai nti ng workshops, playg rounds, video and computer d i splays,
as well as the obligatory gardens where cultu ral invention rather than natural re-creation, was
encou raged . The object of the competition was to select a chief architect who wou ld oversee
the masterplan and also build the " structu ring" elements of the park. A rtists, landscape
designers and other architects were to contribute a variety of gardens or buildings.
In M arch 1 983, Bernard Tsc h u m i , a 39-year old French-Swiss architect living i n New York, was
selected by an i nternational jury from over 470 teams from 70 cou ntries. H is win n i ng scheme
had been conceived as a large metropolitan venture, derived f rom the disju nctions and dissoci
ations of our time. It attempted to propose a new u rbanistic strategy by articulating concepts
such as " superimposition," architectural "combination " and "ci nematic" landscapes. Tschumi
described the Park as "the largest disconti nuous bu ilding i n the world . "
Tschumi is cu rrently completing the $130 million fi rst phase of La Villette. As of late 1 987,
nearly half of the Park is u nder construction, i ncluding 1 5 of 35 Folies, part of the covered gal
leries, the bridge and segments of the "cinematic promenade" of gardens. Several gardens
by individu al desig ners are u nder way, while futu re buil d i n g projects are u nder consideratio n .
This book assembles i n o n e volume a few key documents f rom the nearly 4, 000 d rawings and
70 models elaborated over the past th ree years It also presents a theoretical introduction and
several texts written d u ring the development stages of the project, i ncluding extracts from the
competition report, the feasibility study, and project descriptions.
Another book by Bernard Tsch u m i , La Case Vide, (Fono VIII, Architectu ral Association, 1 986) ,
expands the Park's co ncept beyond its built phase and includes a major essay "Poi nt de Folie.
Maintenant l 'Architecture , " by J acques Derrida, as well as a contribution by Anthony Vidler and
an interview by Alvin Boyarsky.
Also, a publication entitled Pare-Ville Villette, (Ed . C hamp Vallon, 1 987) , illustrates contributions
of the artists, landscape desig ners, architects and philosophers.

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THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES AT LA VILLETIE, PLAN, 1865

III LA VILLETIE 1865

PROGRAMME
20

19

18

23

24

riverruo, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend

:i

of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of rcciralJation back to


Howth Casde and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d'amol"CS, fc'ovu the shott sea, had passen-

26

orica on

!I s de the scraggy

core reamved (C

0Mh

isthmus of Europe

or to Wlclderfigbt his pentsolate

had topsawyer's

war:

nor

y the ,ueam Oconee exaggerated themselsc


to LaurensCounty's gorgiO! while dteywcnt doublin their mumper

28

all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to
tluftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a
Iddscad bunended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all', (air in
vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with [Wone nathandjoe. Rot a

31 peck of pa', malt had Jhem or Shen brewedlw. arclight and rory
end to the regginbrow to be seen rings. on the aquafaoe.
was

The fall (bababadalgharagh..umminarronoltonnbronnlOnner

;J

once waUstrait oldput' is rewed early in bed and larer

ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohooboordenenthur
nuk!) of

it

on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The grear faU of me


oft'wall entailed ar such shorr notice the pfrjsc.hure of Finnegan,
ene solid man, tha

hump'YhHlhead of humself pnHTlpdy sends

an unquiring one

to the wesr in quest of his rumptytumtoes:

and their uprump'


JAMES

Jove!: 's

f'INNGANS WAK

inrandplace is at the knock. out in the park

where onnges have been laid to rust upon the green since dev

36

linsfirst loved livvy.

lame, lO!lc

A B S T R A e T

M E D I A T I O N

A N D

S T R A T E G Y

When confronted with an u rbanistic prog ram , an architect may either


a) design a masterly construction , an inspi red arch itectu ral gesture (a composition) ;
b) take what exists, fill i n the g aps, complete the text, scribble i n the marg i ns (a complement);
c) deconstruct what exists by critically analyzing the h i storical layers that preceded it, even
adding other layers derived from elsewhere-from other cities, other parks (a pal impsest);
d) search for an intermediary-an abstract system to mediate between the site (as wel l as all
given constraints) and some other concept, beyond city or prog ram (a mediation).
D u ring the Parc de la Villette competition , thought had been given to employi ng as a methodol
ogy either the pal impsest or the abstract mediation . The composition and complement were
rejected outright, the one for its su bscription to old arch itectu ral myth s, the other for its l i miting
pragmatism. Yet the pal impsest (which had been explored in the 1 976 Screenplays) was not
pu rsued, for its inevitably figu rative or representational components were incompati ble with the
complexity of the program matic, tech nical and political constraints that could be foreseen.
Fu rthermore, the object of the competition was both to select a chief architect who wou ld be in
charge of the master plan as well as of construction of the park's key elements , and to suggest,
coordinate and supervise possible contributions by other artists, landscape desig ners and
architects. The n umerous u n knowns governing the general economic and ideological context
suggested that much of the ch ief architect's role would depend on a strategy of su bstitution. It
was clear that the elements of the prog ram were interchangeable and that budgets and priori
ties could be altered, even reversed, at least over the cou rse of one generation .
Hence the concern reinforced b y recent developments i n phi losophy, art and literature, that the
park propose a strong conceptual framework while sim ultaneously suggesting m ultiple combi
nations and su bstitutions. One part could replace another, or a bui ldin g ' s prog ram be revised,
changing (to use an actual example) from restau rant to gardening center to arts workshop. In
this manner, the park's identity could be mai ntained, while the c i rcumstantial logics of state or
institutional politics cou ld pu rsue their own i ndependent scenarii. Moreover, our objective was
also to act upon a strategy of differences: if other desig ners were to i ntervene, their projects'
difference from the Folies or divergence from the continuity of the cinematic promenade would
become the condition of thei r contributions. The general circumstances of the project, then,
were to find an organizing structure that could exist i ndependent of use, a structure without
center or hierarchy , a structure that would negate the simplistic assumption of a causal relation
ship between a program and the resulting architectu re.
Recou rse to the point g rid as an organizi ng structure was hardly without precedent. The con
cept of an abstract mediation had been researched earlier in Joyce's Garden (1977) , in which a

26

JAMES JOYCE'S GARDEN


VERSION

JOYCE'S GARDEN

1976-77

A LITERARY TEXT,

FINNEGANS WAKE, WAS USED AS THE PROGRAM.

AN

ABSTRACT POINT GRID FUNCTIONED AS A MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE TEXT AND THE SITE

____ __ ___ _________

j -_ __

PSYCHO-PARK

(1976),

___

---j

EXCERPT FROM THE SCREENPLAYS SERIES

FADE-IN.

FADE-OUT AS PALIMPSEST:

SUPERIMPOSITION OF ABSTRACT AND FIGURATIVE ELEMENTS EDITED FROM A. HITCHCOCK'S PSYCHO AND

PLANS FROM CENTRAL PARK AND MANHATTAN GRID

literary text, Finnegans Wake, was used as the program for a project involving a dozen contri
butions by different students on a "real" site, London's Covent Garden. The intersections of an
ordinance survey g rid became the locations of each architectural intervention, thereby accomo
dating a heterogeneous selection of buildings through the regular spacing of points . M o reover
(and perhaps more importantly) the point g rid functioned as a mediator between two mutual ly
exclusive systems of words and stones, between the literary prog ram (J oyce's book) and the
architectural text. Joyce's Garden in no way attempted to reconcile the disparities resulting from
the superimposition of one text on another; it avoided synthesis, encouraging, instead, the
V. PRELIMINARIES

1977

opposed and often conflicting logics of the different systems. Indeed , the abstraction of the
grid as an organizing device suggested the disju nction between an architectu ral sig nifier and its
prog rammatic sign ified , between space and the use that is made of it. The point g rid became
the tool of an approach that argued, against functionalist doctrines, that there is no cause-and
effect relationship between the two terms of prog ram and arch itecture.
Beyond such personal precedents, the poi nt g rid was also one of the few modes of spatial
organization that vigorously resisted the stamp of the individ u al auth or: its historical m u ltiplicity
made it a sig n without ori g i n , an image with out "fi rst image" or i nau gu rating mark. Neverthe
less, the g rid ' s serial repetitions and seemi n g anonymity made it a paradigmatic 20th-century
form. And, just as it resisted the h u manist claim to authorsh ip, so it opposed the closu re of
i deal compositions and geometric dispositions. Through its reg ular and repetitive markings, the
g rid defined a potentially infinite field of points of i ntensity: an i ncomplete, i nfi nite extension,
lacking center or hierarchy.
The g ri d, then, presented the project team with a series of dynamic oppositions. We had to
design a park: the grid was anti- nature. We had to fulfi ll a nu mber of fu nctions: the grid was
anti-fu nctional. We had to be realists: the g rid was abstract. We had to respect the local con
text: the g rid was anti-contextual. We had to be sensitive to site bou ndaries: the g rid was
i nfi nite. We had to take i nto account pol itical and economic indeterminatio n: the g rid was
determinate. We had to acknowledge garden precedents: the g ri d had no ori g i n , it opened
onto an endless recession into prior images and earlier sig ns.

It should be noted that the point g rid of La Vil lette cou ld just as well h ave taken the form of a
random distribution of poi nts th roughout the site. Only for strateg ic, rather than conceptual ,
reasons was the regular poi nt g rid selected. It is also important to recall that the point g rid of
Folies (the " system of points") constitutes only one of the project' s components; the " system of
l i nes" and the "system of su rfaces" are as fundamental as the " system of points."
Each represents a different and autonomous system (a text) , whose superimposition on anoth e r
makes impossible any "composition , " mai ntain ing differences and refusing ascendency of any
privileged system or organ izing element. Although each is determined by the architect as
" subject, " when one system is superimposed on another, the subject-the architect-is erased .
While one could object that the same architect continues his control l i ng authority by staging the
superimposition (and hence that the park remains the product of h i s individ u al i ntentions), the
competition req uirements provided a means to relativize the presence of such a masterminding
subject by stipulating, as i n any large-scale u rban project, that other professionals intervene.
Another l ayer , another system cou ld then be i nterposed among the preceding th ree layers in
the form of occasional constructions ju xtaposed to several Folies, or of experi mental gardens
by d ifferent desig ners, inserted into the sequences of the cinematic promenade. Such j u xtapo
sitions would be successful only i nsofar as they i njected discordant notes i nto the system,
hence rei nforcing a specific aspect of the Park theory. The principle of heterogeneity-of m u lti
ple, dissociated and inherently confrontational elements-is aimed at disrupting the smooth
coherence and reassuring stability of composition, promoting i nstabil ity and prog rammatic mad
ness ("a Folie") . Other existing constructions (e. g . the M useu m of Science and Industry, the
G rande Halle) add further to the calculated discontinuity.

To the notion of composition , which implies a read i ng of u rbanism on the basis of the plan, the
La Vil lette project substitutes an idea comparable to montage (wh ich presupposes autonomous
parts or fragments). Film analogies are convenient, since the world of the ci nema was the first
to i ntroduce discontinu ity-a segmented world in which each f ragment maintai ns its own
independence, thereby permitting a multiplicity of combinations. In film, each frame (or photo
g ram) is placed in continuous movement. Inscribi ng movement through the rapid succession
of photog rams constitutes the cineg ram
The Park is a series of cineg rams, each of which is based on a precise set of architectonic,
spatial or prog rammatic transformations. Contigu ity and superimposition of cineg rams are two
aspects of montage. Montage, as a tech nique, incl udes such other devices as repetition, i nver
sion, substitution and insertion . These devices suggest an art of rupture, whereby i n vention
resides in contrast-even in contradiction.

Is the Parc de la Villette a built theory or a theoretical bu i lding? Can the pragmatism of building
practice be allied with the analytic rigor of concepts?
An earlier series of projects, published as The Manhattan Transcripts (Academy Editions-St.
Mart i n ' s Press, 1981) was aimed at achievi ng a displacement of cohventional arch itectural
categories through a theoretical argument. La Vil lette was the bu ilt extension of a comparable
meth od; it was impelled by the desire to move " from pure mathematics to applied mathemat
ics." In its case, the constraints of the built realization both expanded and restricted the

research . It expanded it. i nsofar as the very real economic, political and tech nical constraints of
the operation demanded an ever increasi ng sharpening of the theoretical argumentation : the
project became better as difficulties i ncreased. But it restricted it insofar as La Vil lette had to be
built: the i ntention was never merely to pu blish books or mou nt exhibitions; the fi nality of each
d rawing was " building" except in the book entitled La Case Vide, there were no "theoretical
d rawings" for La Vil lette.
However, the Parc de la Vil lette project had a specific aim: to prove that it was possible to con
struct a complex arch itectu ral organization without resorting to traditional ru les of composition,
h ierarchy, and order. The pri nciple of su perimposition of th ree autonomous systems of points,
li nes and su rfaces was developed by reject i ng the total izing synthesis of objective constraints
evident in the majority of large-scale p rojects. In fact , if historically arch itecture has always
been defined as the " harmonious synthesis" of cost, structu re, u se and formal constraints
(" venustas, fi rmitas, util itas"), the Park became arch itecture against itself: a d i s-i ntegration .
O u r aims were t o displace the traditional opposition between prog ram and architectu re, and to
extend q uestioning of other arch itectu ral conventions through operations of su perimposition,
permutation and su bstitution to achieve " a reversal of the classical oppositions and a general
displacement of the system, " as Jacques Derrida has written, in another context, in Marges.
Above all, the p roject directed an attack agai nst cause and effect relationships, whether
between form and fu nction, structure and economics or (of cou rse) form and prog ram, replac
ing these oppositions by new concepts of contiguity and su perimposition. "Deconstructing" a
g iven prog ram meant showing that the prog ram cou l d challenge the very ideology it impl ied .
And deconstructing architectu re involved dismantl i ng its conventions, u si ng concepts derived
both f rom architectu re and from elsewhere-from cinema, literary criticism and other discip
li nes. For if the limits between different domai ns of thought have g radually vanished in the past
twenty years, the same phenomenon appl ies to arch itectu re, which now entertains relations with
cinema, philosophy and psychoanalysis (to cite only a few examples) in an intertextuality sub
versive of modernist autonomy . But it is above al l the historical split between arch itecture and
its theory that is eroded by the pri nciples of deconstruction.
It is not by ch ance that the different systems of the Park negate one another as they are su per
imposed on the site. M uch of my earlier theoretical work had questioned the very idea of struc
ture, paralleling contemporary research on literary texts. One of the goals at La Vil lette was to
pu rsue this i nvestigation of the concept of structu re, as expressed in the respective forms of the
poi nt g ri d , the coordinate axes (covered galleries) and the "random cu rve" (ci nematic
promenade). Su perimposing these autonomous and completely l og ical structu res meant q ues
tioning thei r conceptual status as ordering machines the superimposition of th ree coherent
struct u res can never result in a su percoherent megastructure, but in something u ndeci dable,
something that is the opposite of a totality. Th is device had been explored from 1 976 onwards
in The Manhattan Transcripts, where the overlapping of abstract and figu rative elements (based
on " abstract" architectonic transformations as much as on "fi gurative" extracts from the
selected site) coincided with a more general exploration of the i deas of prog ram, scenario and
seq uence.
The independence of the th ree su perposed structu res thus avoided all attempts to homogenize
the Park i nto a totality. It elimi nated the presumption of a pre-established causality between
prog ram, arch itectu re and sig nification. Moreover, the Park rejected context, encou rag ing
i ntertextual ity and the dispersion of mean i n g . It su bverted context: La Vil lette is anticontextual .
It has no relation to its surrou ndings. Its plan su bverts the very notion of borders on which
"context" depends.

The Parc de la Vil lette project thus can be seen to encou rage conflict over synthesis, fragmen
tation over u nity, madness and play over careful management. It su bverts a number of ideals
that were sacrosanct to the M odern period and, in this manner, it can be all ied to a specific
vision of postmodernity. But the project takes issue with a particular premise of architectu re,
namely, its obsession with presence, with the idea of a mean ing immanent in architectu ral
structu res and forms which d i rects its sign ifying capacity. The latest resurgence of this myth
has been the recu peration , by architects, of meanin g , symbol , cod ing and "dou ble codin g , " in
an eclectic movement reminiscent of the long tradition of "revival isms" and "symbolisms"
appearing throughout history. This arch itectu ral postmodernism contravenes the reading evi
dent i n other domai ns, where postmodernism involves an assault on mean ing or, more pre
cisely, a rejection of a wel l-defi ned sig nified that guarantees the authenticity of the work of art .
T o dismantle meanin g , showi ng that it i s never transparent, but socially prod uced , was a key
objective in a new critical approach that q uestioned the humanist assumptions of style
I n stead , arch itectu ral postmodernism- opposed the style of the Modern Movement, offering as
an alternative another, more palatable style. Its nostalgic pursuit of coherence, which ig nores
today's social, political and cultu ral dissociations, is frequently the avatar of a particularly con
servative architectu ral milieu .
The La Villette project, in contrast, attempts to di slocate and de- regu late mean i n g , rejecti ng the
"symbolic" repertory of architecture as a refu ge of h umanist thought. For today the term
"park" (li ke " arch itecture," "science," or "literatu re") has lost its u n iversal meani ng: it no
longer refers to a fi xed absolute, nor to an ideal . N ot the hortus conclusus and not the replica
of Nature, La Vil lette is a term in constant production, in continuous change; its meaning is
VII. DISSOCIATION

never fi xed but is always deferred , d iffered , rendered irresolute by the multipl icity of meani ngs it
i nscri bes. The project aims to unsettle both memory and context, opposing many contextualist
and continualist ideals which imply that the architect ' s intervention necessarily refers to a typol
ogy, o rig i n or determi ning sig nified . Indeed , the Park's architecture refuses to operate as the
expression of a pre-existing content, whether subjective, formal or functional . Just as it does
not answer to the demands of the self (the soverei gn or "creative" architect) so it negates the
immanent dialectic of the form, si nce the latter is displaced by superimpositions and transforma
tions of elements that always exceed any g iven formal configuration. Presence is postponed
and cl osure deferred as each permutation or combi nation of form shifts the image one step
ahead . M ost importantly, the Park calls into question the fundamental or primary sig nified of
arch itecture-its tendency (as Derri da remarks in La Case Vide) to be "in service, and at ser
vice," obeying an economy of meaning premised on functional use. In contrast, La Villette pro
motes p rog rammatic instability, functional Folie. N ot a plenitude, but instead "empty" form: les
cases sont vides.

La Villette, then, aims at an architecture that means nothing, an architecture of the sig nifier
rather than the signified-one that is pure trace or play of language. In a Nietzschean manner,
La Villette moves towards i nterp retive i nfinity, for the effect of refusing fixity is not i nsig nificance,
but semantic plural ity. The Park's th ree autonomous and superimposed systems and the end
less combi natory possibilities of the Folies g ive way to a multi plicity of impressions. Each
observer will project his own i nterpretation, resulti ng in an account that will again be i nterp reted
(according to psychanalytic, sociological or other methodologies) and so on. In consequence,
there is no absolute "truth" to the architectural project, for whatever "meaning " it may have is
a function of interpretation it is not resident in the object, or in the object's materials. Hence,
the "truth " of red Folies is not the "truth" of Constructivism, just as the "truth " of the system of
poi nts is not the "truth " of the system of l i nes. The addition of the systems' i nternal coherences
is not coherent. The excess of rationality is not rational . La Vil lette looks out on new social and
historical circumstances: a dispersed and differentiated reality that marks an end to the utopia
of unity.
New York, Summer 1987

A N

U R BA N

P A R K

F O R

TH E

2 1 ST

C E NTU R Y

The competition for the Parc de La Villette is the first in recent arch itectural history to set forth a
new prog ram-that of the "Urban Park," proposing that the juxtaposition and combination of a
variety of activities will encou rage new attitudes and perspectives This prog ram represents an
important breakth rough. The '70s witnessed a period of renewed interest in the formal constitu
tion of the city, its typologies and its morphologies. While developing analyses focused on the
history of the city, this attention was largely devoid of programmatic Ju stification. N o analysis
add ressed the issue of the activities that were to occur in the city Nor did any properly
add ress the fact that the organization of functions and events was as much an architectu ral
concern as the elaboration of forms or styles.
The Parc de La Vil lette, in contrast, represents an open-air cultu ral center, encouraging an
integrated programmatic policy related both to the city's needs and to its lim itations. The pro
gram allocates space for workshops, gymnasium and bath facil ities, playg rounds, exh ibitions,
concerts, scientific experiments, games and competitions, in addition to a Museum of Science
and Technology and a City of Music. The Park could be conceived as one of the largest build
ings ever const ructed-a d iscontinuous building , but nevertheless a single structure, overlap
ping In certain areas with the city and existing suburbs. It forms an embryonic model of what
the new prog rams for the 21 st century will be.
Du ring the 20th centu ry we have witnessed a sh ift in the concept of the park, which can no
longer be separated from the concept of the city. The park forms part of the vision of the city.
The fact that Paris concentrates tertiary or profeSSional employment argues against passive
"esthetic" parks of repose in favor of new u rban parks based on cu ltural invention, education
and entertainment. The inadequacy of the cIvilization vs. nature polarity under modern city
conditions has invalidated the time-h onored prototype of the park as an image of natu re. It can
no longer be conceived as an undefiled Utopian world- in-minlature, protected from vile reality.
What we see, then, IS the exh austion of the "open space" concept faced with the reality of the
cultural park. Hence we oppose the notion of Olmsted, IA-ldespread throughout the 1 9th cen
tu ry, that "in the park, the city is not supposed to exist ." To create false hills hiding the
Periph erique Ignores the power of urban reality.

SITUAliON PLAN 1982

D
EARLY PRI NCIPLE OF COMBI NATION AND TRANSFORMATION OF ARCHITECTURAL E L E M E NTS FROM THE
POINT G R I D OF FOLI ES, DEVELOPED FROM AN EXISTING FIGURATIVE ELEM ENT (AN 1 865 PAVI LLION ON THE
SITE) TO AN ABSTRACT CUBE

--

POINTS

THE SUPERIMPOSITION OF THE THREE SYSTEMS (POINTS, LIN ES, SURFACES) CREATES THE PARK AS IT G EN
ERATES A SERIES OF CALCULATED TENSIONS WHICH REIN FORCE THE DYNAMISM OF THE PLACE. EACH OF
THE THREE SYSTEMS DISPLAYS ITS OWN LOGIC AND INDEPENDENCE

3 SUPER I M POSITION POI NTS/LI NES/SURFACES 1982

c0

II(]

tJ
\;..

cf

,0

IMPLOSION RECOMPOSITIDN POINT FRAMES

DUD
0

A SIM PLE STRUCTURAL SOLUTION EXPLODING PROGRAMMATIC REQU IREMENTS THROUGHOUT THE SITE
ONTO A REGULAR GRID OF POINTS OF I NTENSITY (A MARK, A TRACE) HENCE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF
ACTIVITIES ARE FI RST ISOLATED AND THEN DISTRIBUTED ON THE SITE, OFTEN ENCOURAGING THE COM B I
NATION OF APPARENTLY INCOMPATI BLE ACTIVITIES (THE R U N N I NG TRACK PASSES THROUGH T H E PIANO
BAR INSIDE THE TROPICAL GREENHOUSE)

We p ropose, instead , a distinctive and i n n ovative kind of park, em bodying a change i n social
context . Extending the radical shift in ideology impl icit in the prog ram , our ambition goes
beyond p rod ucing a variation on an existing type by alterlng one of its com ponents. We aim
neither to change styles while retaining a traditional content, nor to fit the proposed prog ram
into a conventional mold, whether neo-classical , neo-romantic, or neo-modernist. Rather, our
p roject is moti vated by the most constructive pri nciple with i n the legitimate " h i story" of arch itec
t u re, by which new prog rammatic developments and inspirations result in new typologies. Our
ambition is to create a new model in which p rog ram , form, and ideology all play integral roles.

S I T

Our project is motivated by the fact that the site is not "virgin land , " but is located i n a popu
lated sem i-indu strial quarter, and incl udes two enormous existing structures, the M u seum of Sci
ence and Tech nology and the G rand Halle. Rejecting the i dea of introducing another mass,
even of a linear character, into an already encumbered terrain and respecting the extensive
req ui rements of the prog ram , we p ropose a simple structu ral sol ution to distribute the p ro
g ram matic requirements over the total site in a reg ular arrangement of points of intensity, desig
nated as Folies . Deconstruct i n g the prog ram into intense areas of activity placed accord i ng to
existing site characteri stics
and u se, this scheme permits maxim u m movement th rou gh the site,
.
emphasizi ng discoveries and presenting visitors with a variety of p rog rams and events.
Developments in architectu re are generally related to cu ltu ral developments motivated by new
fu nctions, social relations or tech nological advances. We have taken this as axiomatic for our
scheme, wh ich aims to constitute itself as image, as structu ral model and as a paradigmatic
example of arch itectural organization . Proper to a period that has seen the rise of mass p ro
duction, serial repetition and disjunction, this concept Tor the Park consists of a series of related
neutral objects whose very similarity allows them to be " q ual ified " by fu nction. Th us in its basic
structu re each Folie is bare, u ndifferentiated and "industrial " in character ; in the special ization
of its program it is complex, articulated and weighted with meaning . Each Folie constitutes an
autonomous sig n that indicates its independent prog rammatic concerns and possi bil ities while
suggesting, through a common structu ral core, the u nity of the total system. This i nterplay of
theme and variation allows the Park to read sym bolical ly and struct u rally,. while permitting maximum programmatic flexi bility and i n vention.
In contrast to Renaissance or 19th centu ry spatial organ ization, the Parc de La Vil lette presents
a variation on a canonical modern spatial scheme, the open plan.
Conforming to the definition of a system or structu re, the g rid of the Folies is a self- referential ,

. ',

7
/

03

02

meaning that it is i nitially independent of park, prog ram and site. It is only when the g ri d is
appl ied or, more precisely, put i n place, that it takes on a reality disti nguishing it from a simple
geometric system.
The new park is formed by the encou nter of th ree autonomous systems, each with its own
logic, particularities and l i m its: the system of objects, the system of movements and the system
of spaces. The overlay of the d ifferent systems thus creates a carefully staged series of ten
sions that enhances the dynamism of the park.

At its origin i n seventeenth-century France, "folie" or folly had a meaning d ifferent from the one
now assig ned it at La Villette; it i n dicated an extravagant house of entertainment. In the 21 st
Centu ry U rban Park, it loses such aristocratic con notations to gain a public image, while enlarg
ing on contemporary psychoanalytic discoveries (in french , la folie means " madness , " " i nsan
ity' ) .
The new meani n g of folie transforms its origi nal sense b y replaci ng the extravagant display of
eclectic styles with the reg ulated juxtaposition of u nprecedented programs. The pu rpose of this
operation is to remove l a folie from im mersion i n the historical object and to relocate it on the
broader level of abstraction as an autonomous neutral object that subseq uently receives the
play of signs. Thus it is not the specific attributes of the object that are significant, but rather, its
artificial abstraction-the closed perfection of the system to wh ich the object refers. The Folies
and thei r grid are fabricated forms, the products of processes by which abstraction (in this
case, point, l i ne, su rface) has progressively come to replace reality. Substitut i ng "cu ltu re" for
"natu re," they represent the g radual decl i ne of the latter, and take thei r model from the repeti
tive capabi lities and artificial ity of the machi ne.
In th is manner, the U rban Park can be seen to oppose the ni neteenth-centu ry concept of
N ature, based on biolog ical or physical laws. with the tech nological ly-formed concept of the
envi ronment.
'

A Folie as homage to Borges, Burroughs, Cocteau, Quenau and of course to Otto Julius
Manntoifel, whose combinatory construction brought together "the revolving stage, the circulat
ing library, the house as a living unit, the winter garden, some flawless allegorical marbles, the
Roman Catholic chapel, the Buddhist temple, the skating rink, frescoes, the polyphonic organ,
the currency exchange, the men 's room, the Turkish bath, and the wedding cake-to mention
only a few of its elements.

09

dIJ

DISTRIBUTION OF B U I LT MASSES THROUGHOUT THE SITE. TH E FOLIES ARE BOTH SINGULAR POINTS AND
ANCHORING POINTS OF POSSIBLE FUTU R E CONSTRUCTIONS

EB

The burdensome maintenance of this multiple structure, however,

caused it to be auctioned off and dismantled almost immediately following the festivities which

crowned its opening. " (JL Borges, A Bioy Casares,

Ch ronicles of Bustos Domecq).

5 . MECHANICAL AXONOMETRICS 1 983

".0
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_ _

POINTS
THE PROGRAMMATIC NEEDS FIRST HAVE BEEN EXPLODED INTO A SERI ES OF FRAGMENTS. THESE FRAG
MENTS ARE TH EN DISTRIBUTED AROUND A SINGLE B U I LT COMMON DENOMINATOR: TH E POINT G R I D OF
FOLI ES
LINES
THE PEDESTRIAN MOVEMENTS ARE QUALIFIED BY 1) TWO COORDINATE AXES, OR COVERED PERPENDICU
LAR GALLERIES, 2) A MEANDERING "CINEMATIC" PROMENADE THAT R ELATES VARIOUS PARTS OF. THE
PARK IN A SEQUENTIAL MANNER, 3) ALLEYS OF TREES LINKING THE KEY ACTIVITIES ON THE SITE
SURFACES
THE VARIOUS PARK SURFACES HAVE THEIR OWN TEXTURES, CORRESPONDING TO THEIR RESPECTIVE PRO
GRAMMATIC NEEDS (PAVEMENTS, G RASS, SPORTS)

l
I

Poi nts
Lines
Su rfaces

poi nt-l i ke activities


linear activities
su rface activities

PO I N TS

The Folies are placed according to a poi nt-grid coordinate system at 120-meter i ntervals. They
provide a common denominator for all events generated by the prog ram . Each is essential for
the prog ram . Each is essential ly a 1 0 x 10 x 10 meter cube or a th ree-story construction of
neutral space which can be transformed and el aborated according to specific programmatic
needs.
The strict repetition of the basic 1 0 x 1 0 x 1 0 meter Folie is aimed at developing a clear symbol
for the Park, a recognizable identity as strong as the B ritish telephone booth or the Paris Metro
gates.
The advantages of this g ri d system are manifold. It is by far the simplest system establishing
territorial recognition and one that is easily impleme nted. It lends itself to easy mai ntenance.
7 GENERAL AXONOMETRIC VIEW

TH E CINEMATIC PROMENADE OF GARDENS A MONTAGE OF SEQUENCES AND FRAMES CONCEIVED AS


SPACES FOR THE INTERVENTIONS OF ARTISTS, LANDSCAPE DESIGNERS, ARC H ITECTS AND P H I LOSOP H ERS.
THE PROMENADE OF GARDENS IS DESIGNED AS A FILM STRI P, IN WHICH THE SOUNDTRACK CORRESPONDS
TO TH E PEDESTRIAN PATH AND THE I MAGE TRACK TO THE SUCCESSIVE FRAMES OF SPECI FIC GARDENS
AIMED AT SUCH ACTIVITIES AS BATHING, PICNICKING, ROLLERSKATING, AS WELL AS FOR D ISPLAYING THE
STAGING OF "NATURAL" PLANTING OR CONCEPTUAL GARDENS (GARDENS BY DESIGNERS)

The structure provides a com prehensive image or shape for an otherwise ill-defi ned terrain.
The regu larity of routes and positioning makes orientation simple for those u nfamiliar with the
area. The advantage of the point g rid system is that it p rovides for the minimum adequate
equipment of the u rban park relative to the number of its visitors.
LI NES

The Folie grid is related to a larger coordinate structure (the Coord i n ates) an orthogonal system
of high-density pedestrian movement which marks the site with a cross. The N orth-South Pas
sage or Coordinate links the two Paris gates and su bway stations of Porte de la Villette and
Porte de Pantin; the East-West Coord i nate joins Paris to its subu rbs. A 5 meter wide, open
covered structure runs the length of both Coordinates. Organized arou nd the Coordinates so
as to facilitate and encou rage access are Folies designated for the most frequented activities:
the City of M u sic, restau rants, Square of the Bath s, art and science displays, children's play
grounds, video workshops and Sports Center.
The Line system also includes the Path of Thematic Gardens, the seemingly random cu rvi-li near
route that l i n ks various parts of the Park in the form of a carefully plan ned ci rcuit. The Path of
Thematic Gardens i ntersects the Coord inate axes at various places, providing u nexpected
encou nters with u nusual aspects of domesticated or " prog rammed " nature.
SURFACES

The surfaces of the Park receive all activities requiring large expanses of horizontal space for
play, games, body exercises, mass entertainment, markets, etc. Each su rface is p rogrammati
cal ly determi ned. So-called left-over su rfaces (when every aspect of the prog ram has been
fu lfilled) are composed of com pacted earth and g ravel, a park material familiar to all Parisians.
Earth and g ravel su rfaces allow for complete p rogrammatic freedom.
Excerpts from the architect's report t o the International Jury,

1 983.

CINEMATIC PROMENADE, PLAN 1 984 8

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AERIAL VIEW 1 985 1 0

1 1 AERIAL VIEW 1 985

CIN E MATIC PROM ENADE WITH 1 ) ALU M I N U M CATWALKS THAT DELINEATE T H E FRA M ES OF SUCCESSIVE
SEU ENCES, 2) A BLU ISH-GREEN N EON CURVI L I N EAR STR I P SUSPENDED FROM ALU M I N U M MASTS AND
3) FLUORESCENT SPOTS ON LONG GREY-BLUE ARTI FICIAL "STON E" BENCHES

The C i nematic Promenade is one of the key featu res of the Park, It is conceived along the
analogy of a film strip in wh ich the sou nd-track corresponds to the general walkway for visitors
and the image-track corresponds to the suc' c essive f rames of i n divid ual gardens, The linearity
of sequences orders events, movements and spaces in a progression that either combines or
parallels divergent concerns,

Each part, each frame of a sequence qualifies, reinforces or alters

the parts that precede and follow it,

The associations thus formed allow for a plurality of

interpretations rather than a singular fact,

Each part is thus both complete and incomplete, If


the general struct u re of the sequence of g ardens req uires the indetermination of its content
(hence the role of the chief architect as film director overseeing the montage of sequences) , its
specific content impl ies determinacy (through the particular desig ns of i ndividual designers),
The Park is also inhabited: sequences of events, use, activities, incidents are inevitably super
imposed on those fixed spatial sequences,

It suggests secret maps and impossible fictions,

rambling collections of events all strung along a collection of spaces, frame after frame, garden
after garden, episode after episode,

At La Vil lette a frame means each of the segments of the sequence in the cinematic
promenade, each frame defines a garden, Each of these frames can be tu rned i nto a single
piece of work,
The framing principle permits arrangement of each part of the sequence si nce, as with the
cineg rams of a film, each frame can be i nfinitely mixed , combi ned , superimposed, etc, M o re
over, the content of each frame can be shown from above or from below, producing u nu su al
viewpoints, The spatial seq uences at La Vil lette can also be seen independently from the
mean i ngs they may suggest. Thei r sig nification can be deduced directly from the events occur
ring i n the seq uence (a row of slides, a sand box and a rollers kati ng space undoubted ly imply
a chil d ren's seq uence),
In literature and in the cinema the relations between frames or between seq uences can be
man ipulated th rough devices such as flashbacks, jumpcuts, d i ssolves and so on: Why not i n
architecture or i n landscape? A t L a Vil lette, the c u t between two garden sequences is exe
cuted by means of a l i ne of trees, In other words, the li nes of trees defining the "triangle" and
the "circle" are to be read first as cuts between sequences, All sequences are cumulative,
Their "frames" derive significance from juxtaposition,
ing frames,

Excerpt from "Etude de Definition," unpublished, Paris 1 984,


PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF T H E 4TH SEU ENCE 1 985 1 2

They establish memoryof the preced

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SUPERIM POSITION (LAN DSCAPE: POINTS, LINES, SURFACES) 1 984

SUPERIMPOSITION . 14

CIN E MATIC PROM ENADE. THE 4TH SEQUENCE 1 984

L I N E OF 0, C I N E M ATIC PROMENADE AND FOLIE OF SPECTACLES 1 984

15 . C I N E MATIC PROMENADE

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MADNESS

"Madness would then be a word in perpetual discordance with itself and interrogative
throughout, so that it would question its own possibility,

and therefore the possibility of the

language that would contain it; thus it would question itself, since the latter also belongs to the
game of language."

(Mau rice Blanchot)


M ad ness serves as a constant poi nt of reference throughout the Urban Park of La Vil lette
because it appears to illustrate a characteristic situation at the end of the twentieth centu ry
that of d i sj u nctions and dissociation between use, form and social values. This situation is not
necessarily a negative one, but rather is sym ptomatic of a new condition, as distant from
eighteenth cent u ry h uman ism as f rom this centu ry's various modernisms. M ad ness, here, is
l i n ked to its psychoanalytical meani ng-i nsanity-and can be related to its built sense-folly
only with extreme caution. We aim to free the built Folie f rom its historical con notations and to
place it on a broader, more abstract plane, as an autonomous object which , in the futu re, will
be able to receive new meani ngs.
It is not necessary to recall i n this context how M ichel Foucault, i n Madness and Civilization,
analyzes the manner i n which insan ity raises q uestions of a sociological , phi losoph ical , and
psychoanalytic natu re. If I suggest that madness also raises an architectural q uestion , it is in
MONTAGE AND SUPERIM POSITION 1 984 1 6

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order to demonstrate two points. On the one hand, that normal ity ( " good " arch itectu re: typolo
gies, M odern M ovement d ogmas, Rationalism , and other " ism s " of recent h i story) is only one
possi bility among those offered by the combination, the " genetics" of architectural elements.
On the other, that , just as all societies req u i re l u natics, deviants, and crimi nals to mark thei r own
negativity, so architecture needs extremes and i nterd ictions to i nscribe the reality of its constant
oscillation between the p ragmatics of the built realm and the absoluteness of concepts. Th ere
is no i ntention here to descend i nto an i ntellectual fasci nation with mad ness, but rather to
stress that mad ness articulates somethi ng that is often negated in order to preserve a fragile
cultu ral or social order.
In this analogy, the contemporary city and its many parts (here La Vil lette) are made to
correspond with the dissociated elements of sch izophrenia. The question becomes that of
knowi ng one's relationsh i p to such dislocated city parts. Our hypothesis, here, is that this rela
tionsh i p necessarily suggests the idea of transference. Transference in arch itecture resembles
the psychoanalytic situation, the tool th rou gh which theoretical reconstruction of the totality of
17

COM PUTER PERSPECTIVE 1 983

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IINTERSECTION

REPETITION QUALIFICATION DISTORTION FRAGMENTATION

TYPE A
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1 . WALLS AND INTERIOR PLA N ES (SOLID WALLS, CURTA I N WALLS, TRELLIS) CAN BE COM BI N E D ACCORDING

TO SPECIFIC RULES (I NTERSECTION, REPETITION , QUALIFICATIO N , DISTORTION, FRAG M E N TATION)


2. A TYPOLOGY OF POSSIBLE SURFACES AND CON FIGURATIONS AT THE USERS DISPOSAL

OPPOSITE PAGE COM BI NATION OF FOLIES BASED ON THE PRI NCIPLE OF T H E CASE VIDE (TH E VOID IN EACH
MATRIX) EACH FOLIE IS THE RESULT OF THE INTERSECTON BETWEEN SPACES, MOVEMENTS AND EVENTS.
VERTICALLY: ORGANIZATION OF SPACE AND MOVEMENT CON FIGURATIONS-TYPE A SIMPLE FOL I E . TYPE
B FOLIE WITH GALLERY . TYPE C EXTENDED FOLI E . HOR IZONTALLY FROM THE TOP-FIRST LINE I NTRO
DUCING "IN DUSTRIAL" COMPONENTS; SECOND LINE "URBAN " COM PON ENTS; T H I R D L I N E "NATURE"
COMPON ENTS

the su bject is attempted. "Transference is taken h ere as transport: dissociation explodes


transference i nto fragments of transference . " I n the La Villette p roject, we speak of a "formali
zation, " an acti ng-out of di ssociation. In a psychoanalytical situation, the transference frag
ments are transported to the psychotherapist. In an arch itectu ral situation, these transference
fragments can only be transported onto architecture itself, The app roach beh ind La Villette
suggests meeting points, anchori ng poi nts where fragments of dislocated reality can be
apprehended.
In this situation, the formation of the dissociation req u i res that a support be structured as a
poi nt of reassembly, The poi nt of the Folie becomes the focus of this d i ssociated space; it acts
as a common denom inator, constituting itself as a system of relations between objects, events,
and people. It allows the development of a charge, a point of i ntensity.
The grid of Folies perm its the combination of places of transference on the backgrou nd of the
La Villette site. Obviously, it is secondary to try to determ i ne in advance the arch itect u ral forms
that are most appropriate to such transferential situations. All that cou nts is that the Folie is
both the place and the object of t ransference, Th is fragmentary transference i n mad ness is
noth ing but the production of an ephemeral reg rouping of exploded or dissociated structu res,
The point g rid is the strateg ic tool of the La Villette p roject . It both articulates space and
activates it. While refusi ng all hierarch ies and "com positions, " it plays a pol itical role, rejecti ng
the ideological a priori of the m asterplans of the past. The U rban Park at La Vi llette offers the
possi bility of a restructuring of a dissociated world through i ntermediary space-Folies-i n
which t h e grafts o f transference c a n take h o l d .
T h e poi nt g rid of Folies constitutes the place o f a new i nvestment. T h e Folies are new mark
ings: the grafts of transference, These t ransference g rafts allow access to space: one beg i ns
with an am bivalence toward a form in space which must be " reincarnated . " The Folies create
a " nodal point where sym bol and reality perm it the buildi ng of the im ag inary by rei ntroducing a
dialectic of space and tim e . " The park at La Villette offers such a transition space, a form of
access to new cu ltu ral and social forms ih which exp ression is possible, even when speech has
disappeared.
La Villette, then, can be seen as an i nnovative exposition of a technique on the level of su per
positions and anchoring points, It offers places to apprehend objects and uses. It " builds itself
i nto a mechanism that acts as reasse mbling u nit for all the m odes of locati ng . " It is a su rface of
m u lti referential anchori ng poi nts for things or people which leads to a partial coherence, yet
challenges the institutional structure of official culture, u rban parks, m u seums, leisure centers,
etc.
C O M B I NATION

"Although every creation is of necessity combinative, society, by virtue of the romantic myth of
'inspiration ' cannot stand being told so.

Roland Barthes, Sade, Fourier, Loyola.


The fragmentation of our contemporary, " mad " condition inevitably suggests new and u nfore
seen reg rou pings of its frag ments. No longer l i n ked in a coherent whole, i ndependent from
their past, these autonomous fragments can be recombi ned through a series of perm utations
whose rules have noth ing to do with those of classicism or modern ism.
"

ARCHITECTON IC AND VOLU M ETRIC CONFIGU RATIONS . 24

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25 LA CASE VIDE 1 985

12

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U R BANISTIC CONCEPT AS T H E POINT G R I D OF FOLI ES IS DESIGNED AN D BU ILT BY BERNARD TSCHU M I,


CHIEF ARCHITECT OF THE PARK, OTH ER DESIG N ERS MAY BU ILD ADJACENT CONSTRUCTIONS

The argu ment beh i nd our La Villette p roject attem pts to demonstrate, fi rst, that any " new"
architecture i m plies the ideas of combi nation , that al l form is the result of com bination. It then
proceeds to i n dicate that the notion of com bination can be articulated i nto different categories.
It should be emphasized that arch itectu re is not seen h ere as the result of com position, a syn
thesis of formal concerns and fu nctional constrai nts, but rather as part of a complex process of
transformational relations.
Our pu rpose is not to propose the ki nd of new moral or phi losophical role often associated
with architectural endeavors. I nstead , we aim to consider the arch itect fi rst as a formulator, an
i nventor of relations. We also aim to analyze what will be called in this context the "combina
tive, " that is, the set of combi nations and perm utations that is possi ble among different
categories of analysis (space, movement, event, technique, sym bol , etc . ) , as opposed to the
more traditional play between fu nction or u se and form or style.
I n this perspective, architecture is regarded as no longer concerned with com position or the
expression of fu nction . I nstead , it is seen as the object of perm utation, the combi nation of a
large set of variables, which is meant to relate, either i n a man ifest or secret way, domains as
d ifferent as the act of r u n n i n g , double expansion joints, and the free plan. Such a play of per
m utations is not g ratu itous. It permits new and h itherto u nimagi ned activities to occur. How
ever, it also implies that any attempt to find a new model or form of architecture req u i res an
analysis of the full range of possibi lities, as i n the perm utational matrices used by research
scientists and structu ral ists alike. I ndeed , perhaps the most im portant legacy of structu ral ism
has to do with heu ristics, demonstrating that meaning is always a fu ncti on of both position and
su rface, prod uced by the movement of an em pty slot i n the series of a structure.
The guiding principle of reseach on La Villette is precisely that of the empty slot. Thi s play of
permutations was i nitially explored in The Manhattan Transcripts; "the football player skates on
the battlefiel d " was the manifesto of the i nterchangeability of objects, people, and events.
I nfluenced by postst ruct u ralist texts as much as by the different techniques of film montage, the
Transcripts were only i ntroduci ng, in a theoretical manner, what is to be applied at La Villette.
I n a remarkable study e ntitled Palimpsestes, the literary critic Gerard Genette has refined th ese
concepts of transformation. Combi nation, he writes, exists only within a complex system of
transformational relations. These relations can act on whole texts as much as on frag ments. I n
the case that concerns u s , that of L a Villette, a general type of transformation called "mechani
cal operations " can be disti nguish ed . M echanical operations may take several forms a) that
of " Iexical" perm utations, as in the decom position of the 1 Om x 1 Om x 1 Om cube of the origi nal
Folie i nto a series of d i screte fragments or elements, i . e . , square or rectangu lar rooms, ramps,
cyl i n d rical stai rs, etc . , which have been ordered to form a catalogue or lexicon. A lexical per
m utation entai ls taking an element from the original cube and mech anical ly replacing it with
another from the lexicon (for exam ple, e + 7: each element of the cube is exchanged for the
element of the lexicon placed i n seventh position beh i nd it) ; or b) that of " hypertextual " permu
tation, by which an element of the cube will be replaced by another-for exam ple, by a
n i neteenth-century Neo-Classical pavilion placed nearby on the site. Such transplantation may
lead to a semantic transformation in terms of its new context.
A series of transformations and perm utations similar to the f2 "oulipian" manipulations of the
writers Queneau and Perec derives from the notion of the mechanical operation. This mixing
technique, generally known as "contam i nation , " can take i n n u merable forms. It is character
ized by the purely mechanical aspect of the transformation, thus disti nguishing it from pastiche
or parody, which carefully divert a text from its i nitial context toward a use with a mean ing
known well i n advance. No semantic i ntention governs the transformati on of La Villette; they
result from the appl ication of a device or formula. While this may su perficially resemble a varia
tion on the Su rreali st "exquisite corpse, " we have seen earl ier that the relation between form
and meaning is never one between sig n ifier and sig nified . Arch itectu ral relations are never
semantic, syntactic or formal , in the sense of fo rmal log ic. I nstead , a better analogy to these
montage and mixing techniques m ight be fou n d in Vertov' s or Eisenstein's work i n the cinema,
Queneau ' s i n literature, or i n the i nfi n ite variations ar.ound an i nitial theme that one finds i n J . S .
Bach ' s Fugues.
H owever, were this process only to i nvolve deriving transformations and perm utations on the
level of the sol id elements of architecture, such as wal ls, stai rs, windows, and moldings, it
wou ld not differ significantly from m ost research on modes of com position or transformation as
U R BANISTIC STRATEGY . 26

A BASIC CONSTRUCTION (THE CU BE) BEGINNING WITH A "NORMAL" CON FIGU RATION AND THEN DEVIATING
FROM IT ACCORDING TO COMB I N ATION DEVICES I N DICATED EACiLIER

Programmatic combination of folies:


L 5:
cinema-restaurant,
piano-bar,
video theater,
observatory,
shops,
running track,
possibly small
radio studio.
N5:
children 's folie,
dra wing workshop,
tarzan-bar,
slide,
water
games,
the administration.
N 7:
folie of spectacles,
water
wheel,
first aid clinic.

such. I n contrast, and in opposition to fu nctionalist, formalist , classical, and modernist doc
trines, our ambition, al ready expressed in The Manhatten Transcripts , is to deconstruct arch itec
tu ral norms i n order to reconstruct architecture along different axes; to i ndicate that space,
movement and event are inevitably part of a m i n i mal defi nition of architecture, and that the con
tem porary disju nction between u se, form and social valu es suggests an i nterchangeable rela
tion between object, movement and action. I n this manner, the prog ram becomes an integral
part of architecture and each element of this p rog ram becomes an element of perm utation akin
to sol id elements.
Excerpts from " Madness and Combinative." Bernard Tschumi in Precis . Columbia Architecture Journal, New York, Fall
1 984 .

S T R U e T U R A L

S Y S T E M

o F

T H E

F O L I E S

All of the Folies u se the same repetitive system , based on 10 . 8 m eter by 1 0 . 8 meter by 1 0 . 8
meter (36 x 36 x 36 foot) c u b e . The cube is t h e n d ivided i n th ree i n each di rection, form ing a
cage with 3 . 6 meters (1 2 feet) between bars.
The cage can be decom posed i nto fragments of a cage or extended through the addition of
other elements (one- or two-story cyl i n d rical or triangular volumes, stai rs, ramps) according to a
variety of com binatory princi ples, wh ile sim ultaneously (and i ndependently) confronti ng specific
programmatic req u i rements. The p ri mary structure (the cage) is com posed of a frame which
can be concrete or steel-or any other mate rial , for that matter. The selection of the structural
material is made accordi ng to fire code req ui rements or economic conditions. A red enamelled
steel envelope covers every part of the structural frame. It is desig ned so as to solve every
i nterior or exterior corner, cantilever or edge condition.
Although the Folies proceed from a simple construction p ri nciple, deviation alters the relation
ship to the structural g ri d . The g rid then becomes a simple support around which a transg res
sive arch itecture can develop in relation to the origi nal norm. The relationship between normal
ity and deviation suggested a method for the elaboration of the Folies: Fi rst, req u i rements and
constraints derived from the p rog ram are confronted with the arch itectonic combi nation and
transformation princi ples of the project. The confrontation results i n a basic arch itectu ral state:
the " n o rm . " Then, the norm is transgressed-without, however, d i sappeari n g . A distortion of
the origi nal norm resu lts: deviation.
Deviation is both the excess of rationality and irrationality. As a norm, it contai ns the com
ponents of its own explosion. As a deviatio n , it frees them . Normality tends towards u nity, devi
ation towards heterogeneity and dissociation. This is not a cou pling of opposites but, instead , a
matter of deg ree._ How are th ese deg rees of deviation dete rm i ned? Through economy, time,
money, circumstances , client's demands. A " normal " Folie is not built i n the same manner as
a " deviant" one.
27 . NORMALITYIDEVIATION 1 984

FOLIE N5

FOLI E P7

FOLIE N7
M ODELS 1 985 28

29 FOLIES P6, P5. MODELS 1 985

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FRONTAL AXONO M ETRIC 1 986 30

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31 FOLIE S, FIRST PHASE

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PERSPECTIVE VIEWS. FOLIES 1 985 32

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39 . FRONTAL AXONOMETRICS L5 1 986

NORTH-SOUTH GALLERY. NOTATION

S T R u e T U R A L

S Y S T E M

o F

T H E

G A. L L E R I E S

If the system of poi nts of i ntensity t h roughout the Park material izes th roug h the g ri d of Folies ,
the system of li nes is characterized by the C i nematic Promenade, the alleys of trees and, i n par
ticular, by the covered North-South and East-West galleries which act as coordinate axes of the
site. Nearly one kilometer long, linking the Porte de Panti n to the Porte de la Villette, the North
South Gallery is a brilliantly-lit public street, open 24 h o u rs a day and connecting the u rban
fu nctions of th e park: the M useum of Science and I ndustry, Ci nema-Folies, Restaurant-Folies,
Vi deo-Folies , the 1 9th century G rande Hal l , a theater, the City of M usic. The breaks i n scale
that can be observed on such a trajectory suggested that one could take advantage of occa
sional changes in g round level by keeping the main supporting beam of the Gallery rigorously
horizontal , hence increasing its standard height of 5 . 4 meters ( 1 8 feet) to 9 meters (30 feet)
near the gigantic M u seum of Science and I ndustry. The length of the G al le ry (of which
perhaps no com parable example exists anywhere i n the worl d), as well as the concept of a
"floating" superi m posed element, suggested long 2 1 .6 meter (65-foot) spans between vertical
su pports which contrast architecturally and historical ly with the 8 meter (24-foot) span of the
1 9th-centu ry G rand H al l . Consistent with the principle of autonomy of the Park' s various con
ceptual systems, the construction module of the main beam d iffers from the g rid of the u ndulat
i ng canopy it su pports. This pri nci ple of supe ri m position finds its most spectacular expression
in the carefu ll y orchestrated collisions between the N o rth-South Galle ry and the Folies it meets
on its trajectory. Parallel to the di?torted parallelogram of the G rand Halle rather than to the
orthogonal grid of Folies , the Gallery collides fou r times with Folies , thus determinig their
respective arch itecture.
The East-West Gallery along the Canal de l ' O u rcq not only extends the monumental route that
leads from Ledou x ' s Rotonda to the subu rbs but also acts as an elevated track, a sort of bal
cony overlooking the Park and the M useum of Science and I ndu stry and giving second-floor
access to the Folies located along the Canal . Agai n , the i nterpenetration of the East-West Gal
lery and the Folies it encou nters qualifies the cantilevered architect u re of these Folies .
NORTH-SOUTH AND EAST-WEST GALLERIES 1 985 40

41 AXONOMETRIC VIEW. NORTH-SOUTH GALLERY 1 985

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NORTH - SOUTH GALLERY A N D BRIDGE


N ORTH-SOUTH GALLERY AND FOLIE L5

N ORTH-SOUTH GALLERY 1 986 44

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45 NORTH-SOUTH GALLERY 1 986

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47 . GALLERI ES/DETAILS 1 985

EAST-WEST GALLERY. ELEVATION

BRIDGE OVER T H E CANAL DE L'OU RCO

GALLERY AND FOLI E

NORTH - SOUTH GALLERY, MODELS 1 986 48

NORTH-SOUTH GALLERY, EARLY PROJECT 1 984

At La Villette (or anywhere else, for that matter) there is no longer any relationship possible
between arch itecture and p rog ram , architecture and meaning. It has been suggested, i n dis
cussing La Vil lette, that architecture must produce a distance between itself and the p rog ram it
fu lfi lls. This is com parable to the effect of distanciation fi rst elaborated in the perform ing arts as
the pri nciple of non-identity between actor and ch aracter. I n the same way, it could be said
that there must be no identification between architecture and prog ram : a bank must not look
l i ke a bank, nor an opera house l i ke an opera house , nor a park l i ke a park. Th is distanciation
can be produced either through calculated shifts i n p rogrammatic expectations, or through the
u se of some mediati ng agent-an abstract parameter that acts as a distancing agent between
the built real m and the user's demands (at La Villette, this agent was the grid of Folies) .
The concept of p rog ram , however, remai ns i ncreasingly i m portant. By no means should it be
elimi nated (a " pu re" arch itectu re) or re-i njected at the end of the development of a " pu re "
arch itectonic elaboration. T h e p rog ram plays the same role a s narrative i n other domains: i t
c a n a n d must b e reinterpreted, rewritten, deconstructed b y t h e arch itect. L a Vil lette, i n this
sense, is dys- narrative or dys-prog ram matic: the prog ram matic content is fil led with calcu lated
distortions and i nterruptions, making for a city fragment in wh ich each image, each event
strives towards its very concept.
Gardens have had a strange fate.
cities.

Their history has almost always anticipated the history of

The orchard grid of man 's earliest agricultural achievements preceded the layout of the

first military cities.

The perspectives, diagonals and archetypal schemes of the Renaissance

Gardens were applied to Squares, Colonnades and design of Renaissance cities.

Similarly, the

Romantic picturesque parks of English empiricism preempted the Crescents, Arcades and rich
urban design tradition of nineteenth century England.
Built exclusively for delight, gardens are like the earliest experiments in that part of architecture
that is so difficult to express with words or drawings: pleasure and eroticism.

Whether "roman

tic " or "classic, " gardens merge the sensual pleasure of space with the pleasure of reason, in
a most

u seless manner.

Excerpt from 'The Pleasure of Architecture, " ' Bernard Tschuml, in Architectural Design, London 3/1 977.

49

GALLERIES AND BRIDGE

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I OEOGRAMS 1 982 50

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38 LA FOLIE ADMINISTRATIVE
3 LA FOLIE DU NORD (PORTE)
4 LA FOLIE DE L'ATELIER

2 LA FOLIE D'ARIANE

7 LE FOLIE DE L'ANGLE DROIT

1 LA FOLIE DE FLANDRE
5 LA FOLIE DE LA SCIENCE

6 LA FOLIE DE L'INDUSTRIE
10 LA FOLIE A CUVIER

13 LA FOLIE DU DRAGON

8 LA FOLIE DES ENFANTS DES ECOLES


14 LA FOLIE DU BOTANISTE (SERRES)

35 LA FOLIE KIOSQUE
40 LA FOLIE DU CHEF DE GARE I I
1 5 L A FOLIE D U TEMPS E T D E S ETOILES

37 LA FOLIE DU THEATRE ET DE LA GASTRONOMIE II

1 7 LA FOLIE DE LA CHEMINEE ET DES SPORTS

1 8 LA FOLIE DU BATEAU LAVOIR

4 1 LA FOLIE DES METROS


20 LA FOLIE DU REGIME DES PATINEURS

1 9 LA FOLIE DE L'OUEST ET DE LA BAIGNADE

2 1 LA FOLIE DE LA BAGUETIE ET DU GROS ROUGE


27 LA FOLIE DES THERMES II

22 LA FOLIE DU CANAL

23 LA FOLIE DOUCE (BUVETIE)

n ,

24 LA FOLIE DE L'EST ET DES SPORTS (ACCUEIL)

34 LA FOLIE LACAN

33 LA FOLIE DU SPECTACLE

26 LA FOLIE DES THERMES ET DES EXPOSITIONS I

25 LA FOLIE DES ENFANTS DU VOISINAGE

36 LA FOLIE DU CONSERVATOIRE

32 LA FOLIE GASTRONOMIE I

29 LA FOLIE FURIEUSE (JARDINS THEMATIQU ES)


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30 LA FOLIE DU CHEF DE GARE I

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C LI E N T BODY
The French Government
The Ministry of Culture
Serge Goldberg
President of the Etablissement P u blic du Parc de
la Villette
Franc;; o is Barre
Directeur du Parc

ARCH ITECTS
I nternational Competition 1 982-83
Bernard Tschu m i , assisted by Luca Merl i n i
With Alexandra Villegas, Luca Pagnamenta
And Galen Cranz, Phoebe Cutler
W i l l i am Wallis, Jon O l se n , Thomas Balsley
Prel imi naries and general pla n n i n g documents
1 983-84
Bernard Tsc h u m i , assisted by Colin Fournier
With Luca Merl i n i , Alexandra Vil legas, Neil
Porter,
Steve
McAdam ,
Luca Pagnamenta,
Marie-Line Luquet
Jean-Pierre Nourry, Didier Pasq uier, Kathryn
Gustafson, Renzo Bader
With Peter Rice ( R F R , Structures), H e n ry Barsley,
SETEC-TP ,
SETEC-Batiment,
Commins- B B M ,
Kate Linker
And
Don
Paine,
Patrizia
Falcone,
Patrick
Bouchai n , Julia Bourke, Dina Dai n i , Peter Fleis
sig, David Kessler, Veronique Metadier, Marina
Merson , Pietr Zaborski , Jon Olse n .
Project a n d construction 1 985
Bernard Tsch u m i , assisted by Jean-Franc;; o is
Erhel
With Alexandra Vil legas, U rsula K u rz
With Luca Merl i n i , C h ristian Biecher, Marie- L i n e
Luq uet
With Peter Rice ( R F R , Bridge and Gall eries Struc
tu res), H u g h Dutton, H e n ry Bardsley , Nadia Petit,
Bernard Vaudevi l l e
W i t h SETEC-Batiment, Pierre Robert; SETEC-TP,
Franc;; o is Demouy; Jean-Paul Bonroy
And Jean-Louis Raynaud, Vincent Polsi nel l i ,
Patrick Winters, M itsugu Osakawa, George Ka
todrytis , Rawia Muderris.
Modelmaker: Jacques Fiore
C h ronology of research pre l i m i n ary to the la Vil
l ette project:
1 976 Joyce 's Garden : theoretical project based
on James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Exhi bited at
Centre Pompidou , Paris, 1 980.
1 976-8 1 The Manhattan Transcripts: book intro
ducing sequential, superimposition and decon
struction devices. (Academy Editions/St. Mart i n ' s
Press, London, N ew York, 1 98 1 ) .
1 979-81 20th Century Follies experimental con
structi ons of a polemical and ephemeral nature
b u i lt in New York, London and M i ddleburg, Hoi
land .
1 985-86 La Case Vide twenty plates exploring
future conceptual transformations and disloca
tions of the la Vill ette proJect. With an essay on
Bernard Tschumi by Jacques Derrida, an i ntro
duction by Anthony Vidler and an i nterview with
Alvin Boyarsky.
(Bernard Tsch u m i , Folio VI I I ,
Architectural Association, London, 1 986) .

BIBLIOGRAPHY (Excerpts)
" La Vil lette: An U rban Park for the 2 1 st Cen
tury, " International Architect, 1 /83.
"Architecture, Limites at Programmes , " Art Press,
H . S. no. 2/83.
" I I Parco delle ' Folies ' de Tschum i , " Casabella ,
6/83.
"Concours I nternational pou r I e Parc de la Vil
lette, " Architecture d 'Aujourd 'hui no. 227, 6/83.
" Le footbal leur patine sur Ie Champ de Bataille, "
by Kenneth Frampton, Architecture d 'A ujourd 'hui,
no. 228, 9/83.
" I l l ustrated I ndex , " AA Files, London , 6/83.
" I nterview , " Cree no. 1 97 , Pari s, 1 0/83.

" Parc de la Villette , " A rchitectural Review no.


1 040, London, 1 0/83.
"Sequences, " Princeton Journal, Vol . 1 , Ritual,
1 983.
" Bernard Tschumi et les ' Folies' de la Villette , "
L e Monde Dimanche, Paris, 1 1 /20/83.
" Su perpositions et Comm uns Denom i n ateurs"
(with Col i n Fou r n i er) , Urbanisme no. 203, Paris,
8/84.
" Madness and the Combi native , " Precis , Colum
bia U niversity, New York, Fall 1 984.
"Sequences , "
in
Vivre l'Architecture-Revue
A utrement, Pari s, 1 984.
"A Paris for the 2 1 st Century, " (by Helene
Li pstadt) , Art in America, New York, 1 1 /84.
"Work-in Progress , " i n l'lnvention du Parc, Edi
tions G raphite, Paris , 1 984.
" Bernard Tsch u m i , I e Parc de la V i l l ette , " AMC,
1 2/84.
" P rogressive Architecture Awards, " Progressive
Architecture , 1 /85.
" Close to the madd ing crowd , " by Brian H atton ,
Bui/ding Design , London , 5/1 7/85.
" Close to the madd ing crowd , " by Brian H atto n ,
Architectures, New Y o r k , Summer 1 985.
"A New Modernism , " Paul Goldberger, The New
York Times, 1 1 /24/85.
" Landscape
and Architecture, "
Architectural
Review no. 1 063, London, 9/85.
" Parc de la V i l l ette , " Cree no. 209, Paris, 1 /86.
"Sequence 6 , Profession Ci neaste" by Claude
Eveno, in "Architecture: recits, figures, fictions, "
Cahiers du CCI, Centre Georqes Pompidou,
Paris, 1 986.
" La Case Vide , " Folio VI!!, Architectural Associa
tion, (textes of Jacques Derrida, Anthony Vidler,
Alvin Boyarsky) London, 1 986.
"Art on Location , " Artforum , N ew York, 4/86.
" Point de Fol i e -Mai ntenant l 'Arch itectu re , " by
J acques Derrida in AA Files no. 1 2 , London,
1 986.
"Tsch u m i-Ies stries du Parc , " Urbanisme no.
2 1 5 , Paris, 9/86.
" Parco spectacolare di Parigi , "
Arca no. 1 ,
M i l ano, 1 1 /86.
" Parc-Vi l l e Villette , " Vaisseau de Pierres , Ed.
Champ Val l o n , 1 987.
"Architecture et Paysage, Bernard Tsch u m i , "
Tec h n i q ues et Architecture , Marc h , 1 98 7 .
" Disju nctions, Bernard Tsch u m i , " Perspecta 2 3 ,
Y a l e Architecture J o u r n a l , New H a v e n , 1 986.
"The Point of No-Return , " Daralice D . Boles , Pro
gressive Architecture, J u l y 1 98 7 .
L e s Travaux d e Bernard Tsch u m i , A M C , Paris,
October 1 98 7 .

BERNARD TSC H U M I
Architect. Lives New York and Paris. Studied
ETH (Federal I nstitute of Technology), Zu rich .
Taught at the Architectural Associat i n n , London,
1 970-79; I n stitute for Architecture and U rban Stu
dies, New York, 1 976; P ri nceton U n i versity, 1 976
and 1 980;
Visiti ng Professor, Cooper U n i on
School of Architecture , New York, 1 980-83. Lec
t u red extensively throughout U n ited States and
E u rope.
Exhi bited New York, London, Paris,
Copenhagen, Madri d , Kassel, Berl i n , Athens,
Moscow, Seo u l , Lisbon, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
H i s critical writi ngs have been pu blished in
nu merous architecture and art magazines i nclud
i n g Architectural Design , Oppositions, A + U,
Precis , Perspecta , and Artforum.
P rizewi n ner in many i nternational competitions,
i ncluding Parc de la Villette, 1 983 (first prize); La
Defense, Paris, 1 983 (Award);
Tokyo Opera
House, 1 986 (Second Prize); also wi n ner of Pro
gressive Architecture Award, 1 985 for Parc d e la
Vil lette.
The fi rst phase of the Parc de la Villette, for which
he is C h ief .Architect and main desi gner, will be
com pleted in 1 98 7 . This phase i ncl udes fourteen
folies , part of the covered Gall eries, the bridge,
and part of the " C i nematic Promenade . "

P R I NCETON
P R ESS

ARCH ITECTU RAL

2 Research Way
Forrestal Center
Pri nceton , NJ 08540
(609) 987-2424
Design Concept:
Bernard Tsch u m i , assisted by
Ch ristian Biecher
Desi g n :
Renate Fox a n d H u bert Tonka
Photography Credits:
Bernard Tsc h u m i , 1 9 , 28-29,48
Franc;; o is-X. Bouchart, 48
LART, 2 0 , 2 1 ,30 , 3 1 ,33-39,42-47
Typography
M . Dawso n , E . Short, A. U rban
Photogravure:
ErniolAzer (Spai n/France)
Vercingetorix-photogravure(France)
SRG (France)
Paper text and cover:
Fedrigoni (Italy)
Printing and B i n d i n g :
Neo- Typo (France)
Fi rst published 1 98 7 in France
in the series
LlEUX D 'ARC H I TECTU RES
edited by H u bert Tonka
and publ ished by
C HAMP VALLON
0 1 420 SEYSSE L France

1 987 Bernard Tschumi


I SBN 0-9 1 041 3-37- 1

DESIGNS

AN ARCH ITECT, A PROJECT, A BOOK,


D E MONSTRAT I N G , NARRATING CONTEMPORARY
ARCH ITECTU R E , AT T H E POINT OF
E LABORATION OR B U I LDING.
TO PERMIT A THOROUGH UNDE RSTAND I NG
OF T H E T H O U G HT B E H I N D T H E DESIGN
O F ARC H ITECTU RAL SPAC ES.
T H I S BOOK, D I R E CTED BY THE ARCH ITECT
H I MSELF, ACCOMPLISHES T H E I D EA
AND ACCOMPAN ! E S T H E D E E D .
T H E A U T H O R CONC E I V E D T H E NARRATION
AND OVE R SAW THE DESIGN I N O R D E R
TO INCOR PORATE T H E M I NTO H I S ARCH ITECTU R E .

H U B E R T TO N K A

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