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At Palais d’Iéna, in Paris, the exhibition curated by Joseph Abram with the exhibition design by OMA AMO has the ambitious goal to share with a wider audience the intimacy of a creative process of Auguste Perret.
In Paris, at Palais d'Iéna, the exhibition “Auguste Perret, Huit Chefs d’oeuvre !/? – Architectures du béton armé” (“Auguste Perret: Eight Masterpieces!/? – Reinforced Concrete Buildings”) is a tribute to one of the most inspiring architectural careers of the 20th-Century.
Joseph Abram, the scientific curator – together with his team from the National School of Architecture in Nancy – is responsible for the theoretical and historical consistency of the project. The architectural office OMA AMO, under the direction of Rem Koolhaas, the artistic curator, is in charge of the exhibition design as well as the contemporary contributions. OMA AMO also conceived the cultural events program
Auguste Perret (1874–1954) played a core part in defining a specific aesthetic for reinforced concrete. His entire career was devoted to a rigorous practice of architecture based on innovative strategies that combined intellect, design and construction into a powerful creative mechanism that generated an impressive number of masterpieces. His talent received due recognition in 2005 when part of his oeuvre was added to the World Heritage List.
While several exhibitions have been dedicated to Auguste Perret, this exhibition has the ambitious goal to share with a wider audience the intimacy of a creative process that is amongst the highest in the history of architecture. It is only natural that the chosen venue is the Palais d'Iéna, one of Perret's most significant projects. Perret invented a new classical order comparable to those of ancient times but rooted in modern construction techniques: the reinforced concrete order, with the Palais d'Iéna as its finest achievement.
The presentation of this major event at the Palais d'Iéna reflects the ESEC's policy of hosting cultural and artistic projects as a stimulus for public dialogue, also promoted by many events and debates organized within the institution. A cultural programme will run during the exhibition dedicated to Auguste Perret: the Palais will be opening its doors to the public and will host talks, debates, workshops, concerts and screenings in the hemicycle.
With a solid theoretical perspective and today's production possibilities, the exhibition aims at a thoroughgoing transformation of the way this intellectual builder is seen. The focus is on eight major works: in Paris, the immeuble de la Rue Franklin (1903), the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (1913), the église Notre Dame du Raincy (1923), the salle Cortot (1928), the Mobilier national (1934) and the Palais d’Iéna (1937); and in Le Havre, the Hôtel de Ville (1950) and the église Saint Joseph (1951). With their technical inventiveness and unique relationship with their materials, these eight buildings represent a decisive addition to 20th-Century architecture.
The Palais d’Iéna itself is the first exhibit. For the exhibition, located in the pillared hypostyle hall, OMA AMO has reused designs made for earlier Prada events: since 2011 the office has been exploring the interior of the Palais in its staging of fashion parades and cultural events. The scenography of the exhibition is a collage of these explorations, designed as contemporary interpretations of Perret's architecture. This temporary construction – this building within a building – is a deeply contextual installation that highlights the enduring virtues of its concrete setting.
The exhibition includes over 400 original items, some of them on public display for the first time. Lenders include the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Le Havre municipal archives, the Musée Maurice Denis, the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, the Corbusier Foundation, the Musée Bourdelle, the Musée des Années 30, the Musée des arts décoratifs, the association of Friends of Auguste Perret, the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) and the Musée des beaux-arts in Grenoble.
As a complement to the indispensable contributions from scientific curator Joseph Abram and the OMA AMO architecture office, under the direction of artistic curator Rem Koolhaas, the National Schools of Architecture in Versailles and Nancy have provided input under the supervision of their respective directors: Vincent Michel and Lorenzo Diez. A workshop was set up early in 2013 in the School in Versailles to lead a prospective project. Sixteen students, under the supervision of their professors Cédric Libert and Thomas Raynaud, came up with eight projects for the exhibition, aimed at stimulating interest in the architectural, constructive, conceptual and cultural aspects of Auguste Perret's legacy. The School of Architecture in Nancy, with its Contemporary Architecture History Course, built a team of young researchers and specialists in 20th-Century architecture and in its transmission to the public.
In addition to this artists have been called in to give a contemporary outlook on the buildings' on-going existence and evolution: Gilbert Fastenaekens' photographs show the traces of human activity while Louise Lemoine and Ila Bêka film the residents and the use of these places. The result is an eloquent expression of the buildings' intangible aspects.