Paris currently hosts an inspiring match of architects Rem Kohlhaas/OMA and Auguste Perret (1874-1954) at the Palais d’Iéna. OMA studios provided the complete exhibition design for the show celebrating Perret – one of the most important architects of the 20th Century.
Perret played a major role in defining an aesthetic of reinforced concrete. The son of a stonecutter in the Paris Commune, with his two brothers, Gustave and Claude, he created an innovative enterprise combining an architectural office and a construction business. Perret was a passionate reader of Viollet-le-Duc and a brilliant pupil of Julien Guadet at the Paris École des beaux-arts.
With the apartment building on the rue Franklin in 1903 and the 1913 Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, he began to affirm his role as an exceptional builder – a pioneer of reinforced concrete – and a genuine architectural theoretician. In 1923, following in the vein of his industrial warehouses, he created the église of Notre Dame du Raincy, a model of economy of materials.
His projects in the 1930s respond to a unique cultural challenge: the creation of a new classical order comparable to the orders of antiquity but derived from modern construction techniques. His order of reinforced concrete, first developed in 1937 for the Palais d’Iéna, found a vast field of application after World War II in the reconstruction of the city of Le Havre. The city’s inscription on the World Heritage List in 2005 brought public attention to Auguste Perret’s work.
Rem Koolhaas/ OMA used design elements like illuminated metal walls running along one side of the exhitition presenting and highlighting Perret’s drawings. The work of Perret is basically organized along chronological lines – from the rue Franklin Apartments that were the primary stepping stone for Perrets carreer to the iconic concrete spiral of the Saint-Joseph Church in Le Havre – which was eventually declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Splitting the exhibition into eight buildings let the curators showcase the creative process behind each project in detail. This show is truely well done: eyecatching, informative, inspiring, educating.