Paris Pyramid, by Herzog & de Meuron
â€˜Matternhorn or Toblerone?â€™, the headline on the German website BauNetz read: mountain or triangulated piece of chocolate. Slender from one side, massive from another, the unfamiliar form is hard to pin down. It could be anything.
The assessment by the editorial team from Berlin however has a critical undertone: How much spectacle can Paris take? BauNetz certainly doesnâ€™t represent the most progressive view on architecture around, but this time I have to admit I share their concern. The old city of Paris has a beautifully cohesive fabric. Why disrupt that by taking a single building 180 meters up in the air?
In their statement, Herzog & de Meuron argue the design emphasizes the break between the Haussmanian 15th district (the old city) and the communities of Issy-le-Moulineaux and Vanves. It doesnâ€™t say why that break needs a celebratory monument.
In the Netherlands the common strategy to incorporate high-rise in the skyline of cities is to group them. In that view two high-rises are more beautiful than one. Only slender structures like the Eiffel tower can sustain the exception to that rule, the concept goes. Only certain icons can enrich the skyline of a city on their own. I wonder if the â€˜Projet Triangleâ€™ by Herzog & de Meuron is such a project.
The simple lifting of the ban for high-rises in the city by the current Mayor of Paris seems highly problematic to me. Just look at the skyline of Barcelona: is that a beauty?
Thinking beyond the individual high-rise we can imagine lanes of towers along the river Seine in the peripheries of Paris. That would be a concentration of towers with that would actually mean something: throughout the city one would be able to orientate oneself by the river. The Seine would again constitute the city.
Zooming in on the body of the body of this Parisian Pyramid it struck me how the design relates to the ideas of that famous French architect. The one that imaged a vertical city for Paris for an airplane manufacturer and later in his life managed to realize a couple building blocks of that imagined city across Europe.
â€œThe Triangle is conceived as a piece of the city that could be pivoted and positioned vertically. It is carve by a network of vertical and horizontal traffic flows of variable capacities and speeds. Like the boulevards, streets and more intimate passages of as city, these traffic flows carve the construction into islets of varying shapes and sizesâ€, Herzog & de Meuron write.
Half a century ago a new building represented an imagined city. Now a new building is regarded as a continuation of the existing city. Even if it isnâ€™t.
Related: Amsterdam 2: The Pyramids; Pyramids to reduce noise Schiphol Airport Pyramid, byâ€¦ Germany?; Pyramid, by Van der Hart; Pyramid, by Baikdoosan; Pyramid, by Simpson; Pyramid, by Foster; Pyramid, by Pei; Pyramid, by Pareira; Pyramid, by Herzog & de Meuron