Q. How was Paris on this trip?
||Ando viewing Île Seguin in the
Seine, where the Fondation d'Art Contemporain François
Pinault will be located.
A. Once again, the atmosphere
in Paris was agitated. This time it was because of a march to
protest the gains made by the radical right at the recent primary
election for the French presidency. In Japan nowadays, there is
a general sense of resignation about social issues, whereas in
Paris, people are still passionate about their society. There
was a boy marching along holding a placard with tears streaming
down his face --- it was a striking image.
It was all very orderly, and yet for me, the crowds marching
in the streets and chanting slogans called to mind scenes from
34 years ago. I was remembering Paris during the May Revolution,
which I stumbled into during my second trip to Europe in 1968.
Needless to say, there is no comparison between the passionate
demonstrations of 1968, which completely consumed the population,
and this modest demonstration today. For me, having been caught
up in the strange excitement and agitation of those days, and
having thrown cobblestones without understanding what I was doing,
Paris evokes images of the city as it was 34 years ago, occupied
by angry citizens.
Q. You're working on a big museum project in
Paris, aren't you?
A. There's a place where Jean-Paul
Sartre delivered an important speech to the striking workers during
the May Revolution. It was on Île Seguin in the Seine, where
Renault, one of the three major automobile companies in France,
operated a factory until 1992. For the French people, the district
of Boulogne-Billancourt, where the island is located, is a stronghold
of industry and a place symbolizing the labor movement. Accordingly,
people have strong feelings about the area and redevelopment plans
have been caught up in a circuitous process extending over more
than a decade. In his anger against "poorly conceived redevelopment
projects", Jean Nouvel once growled that it was "the storming
of the castle of the workers". At any rate, the places' history
remains a part of it.
Then, in October 2001, there was an international competition
for the Fondation d'Art Contemporain Françis Pinault, which was
planned as one of the new redevelopment projects for the island,
and my proposal was selected for construction. One of the purposes
of this trip to France is to visit the site and take part in meetings.
Q. This will be your second
building in Paris, after the UNESCO Meditation Space completed
in 1995, won't it?
A. Yes, it's the second project
to be realized, but I have designed a number of buildings in Paris
for competitions. Because these competitions ended in a series
of defeats, no one pays any attention to these projects... For
example, I participated in the competition for the Musée du Quai
Branly, which is now under construction --- following Jean Nouvel's
design --- next to the Eiffel Tower. Also, I recently designed
a pedestrian bridge over the Seine between Dominique Perrault's
Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Parc de Bercy. Although
defeated in the end, I've learned a lot from this losing streak.
For one thing, I realized that at the root of architecture and
urban space in Paris is an aesthetic of symmetry...
Q. What do you mean by
A. I don't mean symmetry solely
in formal terms, but also in more conceptual ways, such as artificial
versus natural, or a static versus a dynamic spatial sensibility.
In Paris, this aesthetic permeates the entire city, from individual
buildings through to the urban structure. Maybe Paris' symmetry
seems all the more evident to me because I am Japanese, and grew
up in the fundamentally asymmetrical Japanese cityscape, with
an affinity for the natural environment...
When I first visited Paris in 1965, I was immediately shocked
by the dynamic configuration of the streets. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées
runs straight from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe,
from which a number of avenues extend radially. This magnificent
aesthetic of symmetry is consistently reflected in the details
of rows of ordinary buildings, and also in monumental buildings
such as the Opéra completed in the nineteenth century by Charles
What I realized through doing the competitions is that in
Paris, the aesthetic of symmetry persists even in Modern and contemporary
architecture, which should have denied the classical conventions
and moved on to new, rational ideas. However fresh the conception
of the building, the aesthetic of symmetry always emerges in the
process of defining its form. This is the case with the Bibliothèque
Nationale de France completed in 1995 by Dominique Perrault ---
while it is very minimal and contemporary in its design and concept,
its layout is perfectly symmetrical.