SOME/ARCHITECTURE : 'PALAIS D'IENA' PARIS / AUGUSTE PERRET
Reinforced concrete is a porous material that maintains structural integrity by way of locating a fortifying balance between an opposition of competing forces. By counterpointing the compressive strength of concrete with the tensile strength of steel, structural equilibrium may be realised. During his time, it was Belgian-born French architect Auguste Perret (1874-1954) who advocated and innovated the use of the then-technologically advanced material to a point of architectural distinction. Perhaps it is then expedient to denominate Perret as the godfather of reinforced concrete and consequently the delicate balance of forces; as his
architectural style as well had respectively come to prominence as a convergence of opposites: classicist principles in conjunction with modern building technology. The resulting coalescence of the respective characteristics culminated in a rich neo-classicist synthesis of a bold and innovative architecture, laden with a richness in inventiveness and rigorous process. Perret contributions were constituent in the rare event of innovating an architecture: built upon the past yet guiding present parameters into the future territory.
Although perhaps overlooked under the eclipse of (one-time employee) Le Corbusier’s evangelical modernism during the early 1900s, Perret’s magnanimous efforts have recently received due recognition, particularly in 2005 when Le Havre; the city he rebuilt post-World War II; became a part of the World Heritage List. Incidentally, more recently his achievements have been brought back to our attention via an exhibition in the Palais d’Iena itself curated by none other than OMA AMO, led by the ever-discerning and ever-sapient Rem Koolhaas.
Celebrating the intimate and inspired creative process, the initiative was a reinforcement of ESEC’s policy of hosting cultural and artistic projects whilst giving impetus to public dialogue. Presently, the Palais D’Iena accommodates the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly of the Western European Union. Although initially hosting a Museum of Public works, the passing baton of function through significant junctures of time and change have also seen it house the Assembly of the French Union.
Palais D’Iena is situated at the crest of a triangular site between two wings. The initial building progress was interrupted by the Second World War and since, architects Paul Vimond and Gilles Bouchez have contributed to the side facades. As mentioned above, the axial formality and language of the building borrow from antiquity and in this case particularly, a Greek
peristyle demarcating a rotunda within elegantly fluted columns. The columns taper slightly inward at their bases and the rotunda is the formal ballast of the building; containing a curved vestibule and grand ceremonial staircase. As to be expected, the structure is finished in a polished concrete of an opulent grade comprising of green and pink marble.