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?

Géode(1)

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 VilletteAdobePhotoshopExpress_03ae20efdde649b89414371fb0302da3

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.

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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.

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Museum of Technology and Science

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.

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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.

 

 

(1) Heritage of Loss

 

Industrial heritage – understanding loss and digging into future!

Industrie Luftschloss

Industrial sites shape landscapes into settlements and communities. Where there used to be nature, agriculture or wasteland you find buildings, plants, architecture, machinery, products, transport, housing – all of which develops like an island sputtered up from the ocean of man’s industrial and commercial instincts. An island that is projected into the future and based on change. If you visit abandoned plants and look at the material remains of former industries, you’ll often sense the massive loss which their decomposition means.

Industrie Kunstschlaf

On the vast site of former AEG Schöneweide in Berlin-Treptow, where on rural grounds the industrial empire of AEG rose and collapsed in the course of little more than a century, you may find a sleeping giant. He was left behind in the industrial detritus. In his sleep he looks decrepit and promising at the same time, being sheltered under a neatly painted inscription from our days. The lines “Gib der Kunst Raum, dann wird sich die Schönheit ihrer Seele frei entfalten” (1) sounds like the beginning of an elegy addressed to ancient Greek ruins. The words deny the reality of industrial collapse and instead speak of art, beauty and unfolding of souls. As if the strong sense of abandonment, which is still omnipresent here, has miraculously given way to a new space for people to get started again, differently.

(1) “Lend space to art so that it may unfold the beauty of its soul in freedom”

Industriegebiet Kaisersteg

The ruins of social change are unlikely to raise romantic outbursts as those from ancient days do, particularly not so in affluent modern societies. Maybe the reason lies in the anonymity of the relics. We don’t see the people who once worked the plant but disintegrating industrial material. Moreover, these industrial leftovers are a shameful reminder of social defeat. Adaptive re-use didn’t work out, abandonment became inevitable and now decay has taken over. But however “marooned in time, we should understand that ruins have a value” (2) so that they can remind future generations of a “common wealth” which brought about products, skills and knowledge just as well as work identification and social progress.
Kaisers Neue Kleider
So, there are riches in the detritus which the former industrial community has left behind. If the ruins stay, future generations will have the opportunity of digging for them. Obviously, there are enough people who know that they don’t need the deception of the emperor’s new clothes and who get started with genuinely new projects. Walking about on the former industrial sites of Schöneweide you get a feeling that although the past is not yet over some digging into the future has already begun.
Industrie Kunsthallen

 

Former industrial communities – “(…) these are the nameless people. Our job is to pierce their anonymity so that future generations may understand their extraordinary achievements.The future of these working places is in our hands; to preserve for posterity, to recycle for tomorrow,
or to leave alone so that future generations can make choices for themselves based on our prudence and their values and judgments. We have a choice over whether it is treasure or trash.” (3)
Neil Cossons, Industrial Heritage: Treasure or Trash, Abstract for TICCIH (2), (3)