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Ando viewing Île Seguin in the Seine, where the Fondation d'Art Contemporain François Pinault will be located.

Q. How was Paris on this trip?

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 "symmetry"?

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 Garnier.
 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.


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