The original building dates from 1860. “La Maison de la Villette” has been converted to provide exhibition space and a documentation centre, all of which is aimed at treating present and past activities that have taken place in the areas surrounding the Parc de la Villette. The park is now rich with contemporary architecture, and the building, given its size, does not measure up to its surroundings. In order to “escape” the architectural field, we designed mobile installations and used moving images.
The exterior of the building was simplified, to underline the simple geometric model of the Rotunda. The roof is a flat, smooth surface ; the windows are flush with the walls, in continuity with the stone facades. All is monochrome. The interior space has been totally cleared out, and the partitions are transparent.
For temporary exhibitions, a system of suspending cables descends from the roof. It is controlled electronically from the ground. The exhibition panels suspended from it can be configured in a number of ways in all three dimensions.
The centre’s “library” is assembled in a large, mechanised bookshelf which can be stocked in a wing of the building behind a large door, and with its system of rails can be moved anywhere in the Rotunda. In the middle of the central space a mirror reflects the exterior surroundings through an opening in the roof : warehouses, canals, railway lines, smoke from the factories, scenes typical of an area for which this building is the conservator.