Born in 18th century as the Halle aux Blés, a grain and commodity exchange originally conceived by Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, to then survive through the decades right in the middle of the “belly of Paris”, the ever-changing area of Les Halles, the Bourse de Commerce has finally reopened as the home to François Pinault’s art collection. The project by Tadao Ando Architect and Associates has placed a 29-meter wide circular structure below the iron-and-glass coupole, extending in the basement to create a 284-seat auditorium.
The result of a 5-year long process, the project has the foundations of its simplicity rooted into a great depth of elaboration, and mostly into a close relationship between Tadao Ando and the city of Paris, the place to teach him — in his words — how important it is to think about all things from their origins in a radical way.
As Ando has told Domus, “the primary conceptual theme of the Bourse de Commerce revolves around carving the weight of time and the memories of the metropolis into space. Between two concentric circles, old and new, the core of this intervention was formed. Independent and intangible entities of the future and time immemorial occupy this space concurrently. They are not fused or mixed together but instead confront each other in an infinite temporal equilibrium. This space is a metaphor for Paris’s urbanity, where the history of past centuries and millennia is richly striated and layered. The size of the plan was derived organically from the existing building’s context, and an intensive discourse with the local team” composed by French practice NeM, heritage specialist Pierre-Antoine Gatier and setec bâtiment.
Light has a central role in determining shape and vital expression of the building, as told by Ando: “I don’t think that light can be shaped, just guided. At the Bourse de Commerce, we completely replaced the coupole and renewed the glass panes. Light gives life to space. The ethereal projections of sunlight, like the Roman Pantheon, would reflect the changes in time and season in space, revealing the concrete wall’s geometry and expression. Under that light, past and present, art and nature, architecture, and the city will collide, blend, and nurture creativity. I imagined the amount of light would make me want to pick it up in my hand.”