Lights that measure space

by Nicoletta Faccitondo

Compasses Magazine

In Paris’ Bourse de Commerce, the Pinault Collection’s new contemporary art museum, the lighting design curated by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec is a project within the project

The complex reconversion work, conceived by Pinault in dialogue with Jean-Jacques Aillagon and Martin Bethenod, sees the participation of the two designers alongside Tadao Ando, author of the renovation of the building, with elaborate light creations for the entrance, the monumental stairs and the restaurant, manufactured by Flos Bespoke.

The Bouroullecs’ installation is the final result of a noticeable careful reflection and of the development of avant-garde techniques that blend the state of the art with craftsmanship. The choices are calibrated starting from the restrictions and difficulties of the context, finding a point of contact between the double comparison that the lighting project has to face: on the one hand, towards the historical space of the 18th century, a landmark in the Parisian panorama, and, on the other, towards the contemporary graft of Tadao Ando.
The project is therefore the result of the balance found between the two different personalities of the building, the ancient and the modern, and is modelled following a path that accompanies the visitor, winding through three illuminated environments, which become three moments of discovery and measurement of the space.
The light segments are actually articulated through the three passage areas of the building, complementary to the exhibition ones; the designers therefore decided to work not only on the design of the light, but also on the scenography impact of the luminaires themselves, imagining them not just switched on, but above all switched off, so thinking about most of the moments of the day when the museum is crossed by flows of visitors, but the artificial light is not necessary.

Fundamental was therefore the technical realization – realized by Flos Bespoke –, that allows to obtain a lighting system which act like a sculpture or like furniture, helping to define the space, both with the light and without it. Having worked with Flos for many years, it was natural for the Bouroullecs to ask the company to work together on this important project as well.
Flos Bespoke is the division of Flos Group dedicated to contract business, allowing the development of specific solutions even for large-scale projects, with a high possibility of customization and tailoring of the products, arriving up to the production of unique solutions, accordingly to the most complex architectural needs. «As in any project we develop together with Flos, thanks to their extraordinary technical skills, we were gradually able to solve the problems that this complex project presented us with and to put mutual inventiveness to good use», the designer said.

Horizontal Light was chosen for the entrance hall: a groupage of five tubular glass elements, measuring six meters each and parallelly positioned, suspended from the ceiling. Each tube is wedged inside a thin and delicate aluminium structure, but the spectacular technique that gives character to the entire project is in the glass realization, made in Murano with cast glass technology, giving to the surfaces a certain unevenness that, instead of being considered a flaw, here become expressive power, transmitted in the reverberations of the material, with lights on or not. «It is not a technical glass», explain Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, «but a material that is never the same, almost alive, inserted in aluminum extrusions. The result we wanted to achieve was precise but at the same time fluctuating and vibrant, just like the space that welcomes it». The five lines of light are five rhythmed signs that fill and measure the ceiling, enhancing its spectacular decorations.

In the stairs the principles are maintained, but mirrored, through the Vertical Lights: five tubulars joined in a pentagon for the two staircases on the sides of the entrance, and three ones connected in a triangle for the spectacular and sinuous monumental staircase C.
The arrangement of the group covers all the seventeen meters of the full-height space, suspended in the lower part. The customization of the elements is used to enhance the effect: in the words of the designers «For these enormous chandeliers we have chosen a more precise processing for the glass than that of the Horizontal Light. The aluminum we used is also more delicate and finer: the glass has been blown with great care in the molds and it is protected by the metal grid for a shell effect».
Accompanying the visitor throughout the ascent, the lights in the stairwell can be admired from different points of view, in a changing progression that unfolds the space that contains them: seen from above they are the ideal axis of revolution of the ramp, which measures the curves; viewed from below, they are a diffuse installation in the air, softer and more evanescent.

The Vertical Lights are also partially used in the restaurant area, that belongs entirely to the new intervention, where also each table it is set up with minimal, portable and rechargeable lamps, with a wrought iron base and a very soft light source, which simplifies the lighting by eliminating cables and makes the environment more intimate and welcoming.

The Bouroullecs, with the method that distinguishes them, worked on the balancing of the elements, and on the enhancement of the perceptive power of the lights: «Not having to deal with the technical areas, we worked on sensuality, on the color of light and on the way it related with the details of the period architecture that Tadao Ando has restored to its former glory».

The entire intervention is led by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, with the NeM / Niney & Marca Architectes, and the agency Pierre-Antoine Gatier, chief architect for French National Heritage, and after several postponements caused by the health emergency, it is open and admirable by the public since last May.

Photo by Tommaso Sartori

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