A former corn exchange, then building of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Bourse de commerce, in the heart of Les Halles, is now a museum of contemporary art. With its metal and glass dome and its circular shape, the building has, on the one hand, preserved traces of the past and, on the other, it has been modernized thanks to the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. A renovation that had two ambitions: to respect the original building and allow it to fulfill its new functions. Can the old corn exchange really be converted into a museum? What technical challenges did you have to overcome? Elements of answers in a report with Marion Dubreuil and in debate with the critical meeting of the City of Architecture and Heritage, also a partner of this podcast.
It’s a story… We are in 1763. The architect Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières wonders. He was commissioned to build the new corn hall in the heart of Paris. But what form should be given to a building to be installed on a site with five sides, which is moreover irregular? Nicolas Le Camus de Mézière first takes into account the constraints linked to the use of the future building. It will be necessary to provide wide accesses to bring the goods there, but also substantial spaces to store a lot of them. Finally, plenty of light will be needed so that everyone can judge its quality.
Sensitive to the neoclassical codes in vogue at the time, and since the space on the ground is decidedly quirky, he opted for a circular construction comprising attics and galleries, and even equipped it with a double spiral staircase, as in Chambord. Thus, traders and porters will not meet…
Twenty years later, the hall, hitherto open to the sky, was crowned with a wooden dome to better preserve the grain. Alas, a first fire destroyed the cover, then a second recurrence a few decades later. While the activity of the wheat market continued to decline, the building closed and was then assigned to the Chamber of Commerce, which, abandoning the Palais Brongniart, moved there in 1889 on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition.
A floor and columns are added, the cast iron and glass dome is enhanced and decorated with a monumental fresco representing the activity of international trade. The appearance – at least externally – of the building is then fixed. A stone’s throw away are Les Halles, the wholesale market for fresh food products.
Today. The opening to the public of the Bourse de commerce was the major cultural event of the year 2021. After five years of work, it completes the museum offer of the district with the Louvre on one side and the Pompidou Center in the other. This is contemporary art since it houses the collection amassed by François Pinault. The 85-year-old businessman commissioned Japanese architect Tadao Ando to adapt the interior space to the presentation of his works. “The way of intervening should not harm the integrity of the building. We can add things, without demolishing anything. And therefore be able to remove the additions also to find the Bourse de commerce as it was designed »underlines the architect Thibault Marca, of the Parisian agency NeM, who participated in the renovation of the building.
The modular spaces are large enough to accommodate temporary exhibitions with sometimes colossal works. On the ground floor, the most majestic room in the museum, with its rotunda 28 meters in diameter, itself includes an extraordinary layout: a concrete cylinder made up of 863 panels the size of a tatami mat. It isolates the exhibitions from a wide corridor in which other works, of more modest size, can be presented in the original showcases of the building.
On the floors, the exhibition rooms follow one another in a circular route. Gaining height also allows you to admire the rotunda and discover the works from another point of view. Then, approaching the metal and glass dome, the details of the mural fresco can be discovered.
The opinion of the experts. During critical meetings at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, architects and journalists debated the renovation of the Bourse de commerce. They unanimously praise the work of Tadao Ando, who “seized the constraints of the place and magnified it”according to Sophie Trelcat, journalist specializing in architecture, urban planning, design and contemporary arts. “The immense, absolutely magnificent concrete cylinder by Tadao Ando is for me the first work exhibitedshe judges. Bringing a museum program into a building that was not originally made for it, which has undergone successive modifications, getting light to circulate in this way, is a total and very intelligent success. »
For his part, the architect Richard Scoffier notes with admiration that Tadao Ando “arrived like a conquering Japanese and siphoned off space for his own benefit and reframed the painting of the dome, which we did not see before”making it almost “to pass for a work from the Pinault collection” ! According to Isabelle Regnier, of World, “Ando has awakened a neoclassical architecture that is certainly perfect but also smooth and boring. There is now a dialogue between the city, the building and the works. It’s a very exciting place! “. An enthusiasm shared by the journalist and architect Philippe Trétiack, for whom the heart of the building is simply, he says, “ a success “.
“Interesting Archi” highlights buildings with remarkable architecture and design. In each episode, listen to guided tours and lively debates, produced in partnership with the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. Find all the episodes here.
“Interesting Archi”, a podcast produced and directed by Joséfa Lopez for The world, in partnership with the City of Architecture and Heritage. Report: Marion Dubreuil. Voice-over: Isabelle Regnier. Directed by: Eyeshot. Graphic Identity: Mélina Zerbib, Aurélien Débat. Partnership: Sonia Jouneau, Victoire Bounine.