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Remembering Oscar Niemeyer, Domus turns to its archives to propose a 1972 feature on the Brazilian architect's project for the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris. The building is considered emblematic in Niemeyer's career, not only because it was born from a collaboration with figures such as Jean Deroche, Paul Chemetov, José L. Pinho, Jean Prouvé, and Jacques Tricot, but also for the significance of the project, since the architect was a firm, lifelong Communist.
This article was originally published in Domus 511 / June 1972
After many years of waiting and preliminary work the French Communist Party's central committee headquarters, or, as the official bulletins declaim, "la maison du Parti, de tout le Parti", has at last been built — by Oscar Niemeyer. It stands in place Colonel-Fabien (formerly place du Combat), in the heart of Paris' 19th century, working class district, Belleville, between the Gare de l'Est and the park "des Buttes Chaumont".
Piace du Colonel-Fabien is a star-shaped carrefour, in what might be called the Haussmann style. Traffic from eight main roads pours into it: from the rue Blanc, the rue de la Grange aux Belles, avenue Claude Vellefaux, the two streams from boulevard de la Villette and the two from avenue Mathurin-Moreau which, on the east side, leads to the park "des Buttes Chaumont".
The extensive area available — formerly owned by the trade unions — may be compared to an irregular polygon or to a triangle with a blunt apex. The whole site has been utilized for the second and third basement floors, designed for miscellaneous services and primarily to provide parking lacilities, while the first basement, owing to the uneven level of the ground, is only partly below ground. It incorporates the main entrance, which is a narrow entrance, and the large hall, the "foyer" (with exhibition space, library etc.)
Above ground emerges the main office
block in a boomerang arrangement
(the Parisians immediately decided
it must be a "sickle"), which
cuts the area roughly in half; and
the conference hall, covered by a
dome, built on an eccentric circle
in respect to the main block. The
vertical block is six storeys high
above ground level.
The two main fronts are completely free of supporting struts and form a continuous courtain wall, the special technical devices of which are due to the expert skill of Jean Prouvé. The enormous concave mirror on the east front, in which "the Paris sky is reflected", gives an outstanding and also — despite Niemeyer's statements on the subject — monumental effect.
Remembering Le Corbusier, Niemeyer has transformed the roof garden- terrace into a "promenade architecturale" shaping the two towers (containing the conditioning plants), as tiered pyramids and linking them by a sort of bridge.