OMA’s Lafayette Anticipations in Paris is a ‘curatorial machine’
Architects often talk about flexible buildings, interiors that can easily adapt to different needs, ready to accommodate several functions. But you’d be hard pressed to find one that took the meaning of this as literally as Rem Koolhaas’ practice OMA did in its most recent project in Paris, Lafayette Anticipations, its first finished building in the French capital.
Faced with a 19th-century industrial structure on a relatively modest site in the Marais, and a brief from Fondation d’Entreprise Galeries Lafayette to create an art centre fit to host three to four annual shows, plus performances and workshops, the architects approached the design with a truly open mind.
The result, Lafayette Anticipations, is a ‘curatorial machine’ of a building, with an adaptable interior that gives spatial exibility a new meaning. ‘Paris is replete with prestigious collections, yet no place is absolutely dedicated to the work of artists or to the production of their pieces,’ says Guillaume Houzé, president of Fondation Galeries Lafayette.
‘There was thus an opportunity to establish, in the heart of the city, a toolbox giving creators the chance to multiply their capacities and actions, prompting the emergence of new forms and ideas, then sharing them with the greatest number. Within the 9 rue du Plâtre building, OMA made these aspirations a reality.’
In order to achieve this, OMA completely gutted the existing structure (built in 1891 by French architect Samuel Menjot de Dammartin for Xavier Ruel’s Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville), keeping the interior simple and uncluttered, while transforming the courtyard at its heart into a glass ‘exhibition tower’ composed of four mobile platforms.
‘We were asked to accommodate an institution that offers carte blanche to artists in a building entirely protected by heritage regulations,’ says OMA project architect Clément Périssé.
‘Only a machine could solve this. By inserting a moveable mechanism into its courtyard, the only space open to intervention, we activated the entire existing building and gave it the potential to serve this ambitious project.’
The central ‘rack and pin’ system allows the floors to move and be adaptable to the work on show. Photography: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti
The gallery now spans 2,200 sq m and includes 875 sq m of exhibition space, as well as production workshops, visitor engagement areas, an organic, vegan, gluten-free café-restaurant, and a store, within one beautifully composed, well-oiled ecosystem clad in timber, concrete, anodised aluminium, galvanised steel grating and limestone.
The gallery’s holistic vision also allows for artwork to be made on site, with its facilities open to professionals from a wide variety of disciplines, including fashion, design, visual arts and performance.
Referencing the opening show by American artist Lutz Bacher, Houzé says, ‘Numerous pieces presented in the show will have been produced in the Lafayette Anticipations workshop. Here, the diversity of the artists and their work will encourage new opportunities for spatial cohabitation within our modular environment.’
As originally featured in the July 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*232)