Pathé Foundation in Paris, France

The art of inserting a building into an historical city block means engaging in an open, physical dialogue with those already there. Building onto an extant structure also presents an opportunity for a more widespread renovation project, a reclaiming of space.

The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is an unexpected presence, a curved volume one glimpses floating in the middle of the courtyard in which it sits, anchored on just a few supports. On the ground, there is a stand of birch trees, a floral island set in the dense mineral context of the city.

The Fondation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé is an organization dedicated to the preservation of Pathé’s heritage, and to the promotion of the cinematographic art. Its new headquarters [sits at the centre of a block in the XIII arrondissement, where an old mid-19th century theatre – transformed into a cinema (one of the first ones in Paris) in the mid-1900s and then radically transformed again in the 1960s – once stood].

The new building will house Pathé’s archives, some (spaces for temporary exhibitions as well as for the permanent collection) (including a 70-seat screening room), and the offices of the Foundation.

The project called for the demolition of the two existing buildings to create an organic “creature” that better responds to the restrictions of the site. [The idea was to respond to the functional and representative programme requested by the Fondation, while at the same time increasing the quality of the space surrounding the new building] The façade on the avenue des Gobelins has been restored and preserved, due to its historical and artistic value. Decorated with sculptures by [a young] Auguste Rodin, it is not only a historical landmark, but also an iconic building for the Gobelins area.

A new transparent building just behind the façade functions as the foundation’s public access. Looking like a greenhouse, it offers a view on the interior garden through the transparent ground floor of a second building in the central court that houses the project’s main functions.

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The peculiar design of this building is determined by the site’s major limits and requirements. While respecting the distances with the surrounding buildings, the building improves the neighbour’s access to natural light and air. By reducing the footprint, the project creates space for a garden in the back of the site.

The upper part of the building is made of glass, providing natural light for the office spaces of the Foundation. From the street the building is only perceived through the and over the restored façade like a discreet presence during the daytime, while it will be softly glowing at night.

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