Le Parc de La Villette – a landscape for the 21st century
Is Future Aging?
What happens to future when a brand-new generation of toddlers has arrived to look at it? When the avantgarde of two generations ago is walking grandchildren through the landscapes of old-but-bold dreams as, for example, at Le parc de la Villette in Paris’ 19th arrondissement?
The small ones will wonder at the spectacular, shiny mirror which their avantgarde grandparents point out to them and they’ll take the kaleidoscopic reflections of La Géode for the real thing: the multi-faceted urban reality of Le Parc de La Villette.
La Géode touches the eye with 6.433 triangles of preformed polished stainless steel on its perfectly smooth, shimmering surface and it reflects the surrounding world like a fortune teller’s magic sphere. Designed and constructed by the brothers Fainsilber, it opened as a 360° cinema-house in 1984, with a hemispherical screen of enormous 1000 m² and 26 m in diameter. Some steps further and La Géode mysteriously vanishes into the northeast Parisian sky – only to jump at the scene again behind the next bend of the path, like an apparition.
The Parc de La Villette surpasses the traditional idea of nature to be embedded into the cityscape. Rather, the architect (Tschumi, 1984) envisioned the site of former meat-markets and second-empire slaughter-houses as an urban landscape where natural and artificial elements are brought alive together. Still, of the 55 hectare some 34 are dedicated to large, green surfaces which inspire Parisians to gather and interact or just to relax and meditate.The park hosts all kinds of events and activities such as game playing, exercising, entertainment, markets and has the Museum of Technology and Science and the City of Music on site, additionally.
In a way, the Parc de La Villette is a puzzling space and often it resembles a very big, ‘jumpy’ and discontinuous building which meanders unpredictably around numerous open-air spaces which were categorized as ‘surfaces’ by the architect. It somehow displays an urban structure which incessantly suggests social and cultural interactions to the visitor but at the same time leaves the choice to himself.
The vast site of La Villette is structured by 35 red objects, all of them being 10x10x10 metre cubes or three-storey constructions. They were named ‘Folies’ by the architect and every 120 metres people may stumble on such a folly which helps to regain orientation where open space, movement and interaction seem to have merged in a futuristic way.
At the Parc de La Villette the future has just begun, it’s fresh and young for grandparents and grandchildren alike.