I have previously written about the Paris HQ building of the French Communist party, but last weekend gave me the opportunity to explore the interiors.
To celebrate the life of Oscar Niemeyer, building’s architect, who died at the end of 2012 (aged 104!) – the doors of the French Communist party HQ were opened to the public for the weekend. Naturally, for a place that has prided itself on its secrecy, not all doors were open, but it was possible to visit the most interesting parts of the building.
Chief amongst these is clearly the incredible auditorium. Looking like a large white bosom from the outside, the interior, with its soft, comforting acoustics, is distinctly womb-like. That there should be such feminine features in this building though should not come as a surprise when we consider that it was designed by an architect who readily claimed ‘beautiful suntanned women‘ as being amongst his chief influences.
“My work is not about ‘form follows function,’ but ‘form follows beauty’ or, even better, ‘form follows feminine” wrote Niemeyer, and the curves of this building (it’s very difficult to find straight lines anywhere in the structure) offer a physical representation of this statement. Nevertheless, with this building Niemeyer proved that beauty could also be functional. Lining the inside of the auditorium are 121,000 backlit aluminium strips, which are not only spectacular but also play a practical role. The metal strips attract dust, which is then sucked up from above by a series of (invisible) air ducts!
The auditorium was completed in 1980 (10 years after the rest of the building), but although it is clearly futurist in design it looks strangely older. Entrance to the pod is via sliding doors that are seemingly inspired by 1950s and 60s science-fiction, but what other kind of doors could have been put into such a structure?