Friday, July 24, 2015

Niemeyer's Brutalist Masterpiece in France

Siège du Parti Communiste Français. Photo ©Darren Bradley

While in Paris, I occasionally stop by the French Communist Party (PCF) headquarters building to see famed architect Oscar Niemeyer's most celebrated work in Paris. 

The entrance is through the underground passage beneath the canopy. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Why did Brazil's most celebrated architect design the French Communist Party headquarters? Well, he was already in Paris, for one thing. In 1964, Brazil's government was overthrown by a right-wing military junta. Niemeyer, who was an outspoken leftist, soon decided to leave the country for self-imposed exile in France. Niemeyer set up an office on the Champs-Elysées in Paris and began doing projects around Europe. 

Niemeyer also designed the concrete sculpture. Photo ©Darren Bradley

While Niemeyer is most well known for his extensive use of sculptural concrete, mosaics, and other artwork, his effort for the PCF is rather subdued. 

Postcard of a maquette showing the design of the PCF in Paris, prior to construction. The end result is very similar, but does not include the fins on the building, and the sculpture is different. 

The main building was designed in 1965, and finally completed in 1971. French architect Jean Prouvé designed the glass curtain wall structure. 
Siège du Parti Communiste Français
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Photo ©Darren Bradley

The concrete dome and subterranean portions of the building were not completed until 1980. The dome is actually the roof of the main auditorium. 

Entering the auditorium through the subterranean main hall is a bit like entering a spaceship. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Unless you've seen photos and know what to expect, the interior of the auditorium is quite a surprise. 

Inside the auditorium. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Photo ©Darren Bradley

The whole place is a real time capsule, and looks as if it hasn't change at all since it was built. 

View of the observation booths. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The building is not official open for tours, but they do allow you to visit the interior if the auditorium is not in use, sometimes. 


General Manager said...
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Velma said...
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