Three years of transformation
The Bourse de Commerce has been restored and transformed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando (TAAA — Tadao Ando Architect & Associates), the NeM agency / Niney et Marca Architectes, Pierre-Antoine Gatier’s agency and Setec Bâtiment.
This large project began in June 2017 and was completed in March 2020 after a little over three years’ work. This has been then followed by a defects liability period, major finishing, technical and museographic operations, furniture arrangement, as well as the refurbishment of the surroundings of the building by the Ville de Paris, for a public opening in spring of 2021.
The Bourse de Commerce bears witness to four centuries of architectural and technical prowess. It associates the first free-standing column in Paris, built in the 16th century for the residence of Catherine de’ Medici, the vestiges of a corn market with an impressive circular floor dating back to the 18th century, which was then covered in 1812 by a spectacular metal cupola. It was refitted in 1889 to become the “Bourse de Commerce”
Placed in the centre of Paris, in the area of Les Halles and leading out to the Rue du Louvre, this building is emblematic of the history of the city and of its architecture. After an exemplary restoration which has conserved all its beauty, it is now turned towards contemporary creation.
The building has today been revived by the contemporary architectural approach of Tadao Ando. This Japanese architect creates the conditions for a dialogue between architecture and its context, between heritage and contemporary creation, between the past and the present, between the collection and the visitor. The Bourse de Commerce is, currently, the biggest production entrusted to Tadao Ando in France.
The French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have been invited to conceive the building’s furnishings. The restaurant of the Bourse de Commerce, the “Halle aux grains” has been entrusted to two chefs from the Aveyron, Michel and Sébastien Bras.
Ando by Ando
“It was completely by chance that I met François Pinault again in 2015, when I revisited Paris for the first time in many years. […] He rapidly sounded out my intentions: ‘We are currently developing a project. Would you take in hand its architectural conception?’ This was the projected renovation of the Bourse de Commerce. I realised that, around the room, the key members of the project team were already present. I was a little stunned by this unexpected request, but I accepted it at once.[…]
With the Louvre museum to the south-west, the Centre Pompidou to the east, nestled against Les Halles which has just been renovated, the Bourse de Commerce is placed, without any exaggeration, at the heart of Paris. […] At the time I visited the building, it hosted the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. On the walls of the cupola, magnificent frescos depicted scenes of worldwide trade. My task consisted in transforming this building into a museum of contemporary art, without impacting the edifice, which is a listed building.
“The idea was to regenerate a historic site: honouring the memory of the city inscribed in its walls and interior, while bringing in another structure […]”
The idea was to regenerate a historic site: honouring the memory of the city inscribed in its walls and interior, while bringing in another structure, on the model of nestled Russian dolls: a composition setting up a living dialogue between the new and the old, creating a space full of life, as should be the case for a place devoted to contemporary art. The vocation of this architecture was to weave together the web of time, past, present and future, as in the projects for Venice. The circular section, faithful to its urban symmetry, includes a rotunda in its centre, and it is within this rotunda that there has been inserted a concrete cylinder with a diameter of thirty metres and a height of nine metres. The project for the Punta della Dogana in Venice is characterised by a basic schema: a geometrical shape surrounded by trees of bricks, while the spatial layout of the Bourse de Commerce, made up of concentric circles, has been conceived to set off a tense and more subtle dialogue between the new and the old.
The cylinder hosts a main exhibition space inside its walls, and an auditorium below. On the exterior, it forms a corridor, an internal street, between the concrete wall and the interior of the façade, conceived by Henri Blondel. At the end of this internal street, which rises and provides access to the upper floor of the cylinder, there is a circular walkway. The frescos of the cupola, which deck the whole, can be seen as the culmination of this succession of spaces.
So far, the concrete for the walls of the cylinder has been set and the project is being completed. The structure of the former edifice has not only been conserved, but it remains alive thanks to the creation inside of a new architecture, which extends to the basement. It was a delicate project, but the construction team has done a remarkable job.”
Tadao Ando, architect and project manager
Translated by Yûki Yoshikawa and Béatrice Sarno
Extract from La Bourse de Commerce, Paris, co-published with the Bourse de Commerce — Dilecta, bilingual, to be published in 2021
From a Circle to a Cylinder
“The circle belongs to Tadao Ando’s world, like other simple geometric forms, the triangle and the square, particularly characteristic of the two Venetian museums. In his work, he constantly goes back to the circle, set on perfecting it as though dissolving his signature within it. […] The height of the cylinder which now rises up at the heart of the Bourse de Commerce has been the subject of thought, hesitations and corrections. Initially, Tadao Ando thought of it as being twelve metres high, raised up to an additional floor, compared to the interior façade of the building1. But this set-up, closer to what can be found in his earlier work, blocked any view crossing the rotunda from the second floor, on the level of the future exhibition rooms. After several work sessions — watched over by Tadao Ando, Kazuya Okano, the maestro’s right-hand man, Pierre-Antoine Gatier, his team, and us — we finally decided to set the height at nine metres, to free up these cross views and, from the floor, provide a full panorama over the cupola.
The diameter of the cylinder was also changed, so as to adjust the space — almost five metres between the historic façade and the concrete wall, now called the “Passage”, in an allusion to the architecture of Parisian passages. While respecting the mosaic floor design, known as granito, it seemed appropriate to broaden it so as to open up a gap, which meant it was possible to contemplate the historic façade and to make circulation more comfortable, in a moderato prelude to the entrance to the central volume. Set in the rotunda, full-scale wooden prototypes allowed us to finally set the height and diameter of the cylinder and feel convinced about the relevance of these choices. Thanks to these prototypes, we were also able to test the first ideas for the illumination, echoing the magnificent, changing natural light, which floods the rotunda.
“Set in the rotunda, full-scale prototypes allowed us to set the height and diameter of the cylinder.”
The stairs in the initial draft, which were twofold and inside the cylinder, were shifted to the exterior of the concrete wall, where they now unroll, like fine fruit peel, from the basement up to the second floor of the building. Opening out onto landings, which reach the former ring structure without touching it, they thus lead to all the exhibition galleries. Rising up through the historical strata, their serpentine form adds to the Piranesian aesthetic of the site, full of curves and embedded perspectives, dear to Tadao Ando. On the walkway that crowns the cylinder, as in levitation in front of the façades and decors of the Bourse de Commerce, stucco conceals the beginning of the cupola and the great painted panorama, the visitors enjoy a new experience of the building during an exceptional stroll, under the Paris sky. This concept meant being able to eliminate markers so as to magnify a full, unified and abstract space, in the spirit of a perfect body, emblematic of the utopian French architecture of the 18th century. […]
At the beginning, a granary at the meeting point of adjacent streets and corn wagons, then the buzzing nest in which traders met up, the Bourse de Commerce has for centuries witnessed the fruit of vibrant activities which it has intensified and seems to have crystallised, once they had been concentrated in its rings. Today, its core, protected by the cylinder, has become an original theatre to encounter works, with the artists and public. The main characteristics of its architecture — a glass dome, open cylinder, round walkway — make for a hypnotic, circular staging, which whisks visitors away from any markers, the better to invite them into a new dimension : presence, artworks, oneself, in other words “the here and now”.