The general media keeps saying that La Seine Musicale is the new architectural symbol of Paris, but it’s really no big deal. The French capital, quintessential city of architectural symbols, inaugurated Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton two years ago and Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris just last year, and this year it is celebrating Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s Centre Georges Pompidou’s fortieth anniversary.
But the opening of Shigeru Ban’s building is big news all the same, given its size (35,000 square meters, with a main concert hall seating as many as 6,000 people) and its location on the Île Seguin on the outskirts of Paris, to the west, in an area which was home to tanneries and dance halls and also the cradle of France’s automobile industry (Renault), and which is currently being transformed – a true sign of the times – into a ‘Valley of Culture.’
Although nobody knows exactly just how symbolic the Seine Musicale is going to turn out being, it is without a doubt a very strange building. Bordering on the surrealist, Ban has on the river bank combined the inevitable reference to boats with an immensely spectacular allusion to the banally geodesic and banally mirrored spheroid that the boat carries, like Atlas with the globe on his shoulders. The result is a solution so unconvincing as to make us wonder if the Japanese architect might not be more comfortable, and better, working with small emergency shelters made of cardboard tubes than in huge edifices destined to be icons.