A Modern Relic Preserved
Architecture Studio’s winning design for the €240 million renovation of the Maison de Radio France.
Debate over Paris’s architectural landscape rages on. Following a general outcry against Mayor Bertrand Delanoë’s choice of David Mangin’s inoffensive design (over the more radical propositions of other architects, including Rem Koolhaas) for the rebuilding of the reviled Forum des Halles in the heart of the city, the argument continues over whether the city should preserve its architectural heritage (with the risk of becoming an urban museum) or allow the construction of more high-rises and buildings with daring designs.
One relic of modern architecture that is here to stay is the Maison de Radio France, an imposing, fortress-like structure in the form of a broken circle overlooking the Seine on the western side of the city. Designed by Henry Bernard and completed in 1963, the monumental building, highly controversial in its time, has been sanctified by time as part of the city’s architectural heritage.
The 110,000-square-meter building now requires massive renovations to bring it up to current safety standards, and the brief to the architects competing for the job also called for major restructuring to open up the building to the city on the Seine side, construct an underground parking garage, turn the central tower into office space (it now houses archives), improve circulation and the organization of work space, and create a new 1,500-seat auditorium. All this without radically changing the basic form of the now iconic building, which has become the symbol of Radio France.
The work, which must be done in stages and quietly (the sound of drilling must not go out over the airways of the government-owned radio stations housed in the building) will be done between 2006 and 2012 and is expected to cost an enormous 240 million euros, 26,000 million euros more than the cost of the new Musee du Quai Branly, which is now being built on the other side of the Seine.
The winner of the architectural competition for this massive project was Architecture Studio, a French collective of eight architects whose credits include the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, the Wison Chemical headquarters in Shanghai and the Onassis Foundation building in Athens, which is currently under construction.
The plans call for the creation of two esplanades, one behind the building and the other running down to the Seine, and gardens in the rest of the open spaces. The design lets in the light: glass corridors will be added to the inner façade of the main building, sparing employees and visitors the long trek through the building’s dark, seemingly endless corridors, and glassed-in bridges on the fifth floor will connect the outer ring with the round central building.
Maison de Radio France: 116, avenue du President Kennedy, 75116 Paris
© 2005 Paris Update
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