It looks like architect Renzo Piano is blowing gorgeous glass bubbles again for the sake of film preservation and space renovation. And, much like his recent museum projects, Piano’s design for Pathé Foundation combines preservation, demolition, and new construction all in one go.
Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé was once the largest film equipment and production company in the world, but it now serves as a platform for promoting film and Pathé history and heritage. The screened-glass, bulbous structure is hidden from view behind a 19th century historic façade, but peeks out over the top, announcing its presence. Though the egg-like structure—deemed as an ‘organic creature by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop’—appears to be squeezed between the surrounding buildings in the middle of the block, ready to burst, it has enough breathing room around it to even allow the neighbours some daylight and ventilation. It connects to the surrounding Haussmann-era buildings at four points. The structure’s form curves away from the existing buildings and its top peeks over the roofline. The building stands on the site of a 19th-century theatre, which was converted into one of Paris’ first cinemas.
Behind the stone frontage is a glass atrium, in which a metal circulation core connects to the structure via a series of bridges at the lower levels. An external skin of translucent glass tiles envelops the entire structure, creating the effect of an armadillo hide over the humped form while letting softened light into the upper storeys. Once complete, the building will contain offices for the foundation, spaces for temporary exhibitions and the Pathé archive. A 70-seat cinema will be installed in the basement and a planted garden will surround the base of the structure. As construction nears completion, it will be fascinating to see how the space functions, not only as a homage to Pathé, but also a site for viewing and experiencing cinema. The heart of the building has changed, but perhaps, the infill won’t distract from the foundation’s purpose and place in Paris.