Paris Opera Competition
project name :Paris Opera Competition
location : Place de la Bastille; Paris, France
year of design: 1983
client: French Government
architect: George Ranalli
associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer
design team: Nick Dermand
photographer: Model Photos: George Ranalli
In 1968, artists Pierre Boulez, Maurice Béjart, and Jean Vilar expressed the need for a more widely accessible opera house in Paris. In 1983, their treatise inspired President François Mitterrand to sponsor the Opera Bastille Public Establishment Competition. Its program called for an “Opera for the People” at Place de la Bastille, in the 12th arrondissement, and a redesign of the site of the existing Place monument.
The Ranalli Architect project design responds to complex zoning requirements and a programmatic goal of supporting a modest admission ticket. In particular, the sponsor believed that by increasing the number of backstage scenery storage spaces, many more operas could be performed, thereby reducing the price of admission.
The design for a new opera hall is a large cylindrical volume inside an even larger cubic mass, with all seats in the space in a radial relationship to the stage. To avoid the acoustical problems caused by curved rear walls, the back of the cylinder is opened up into the cubic enclosure. The uppermost balcony seats penetrate the cubic volume and become strong expressive elements on the facade. Access to public terraces to be enjoyed during intermissions is also through the cylinder. Administrative offices at a lower level are visible from the lobby on the south side, where the floor is pulled away from the outer wall.
Alongside the length of the site, expansive, light-filled volumes for scenery and costume shops connect to offices, scenery assembly and storage volumes, actors’ dressing rooms, and music rehearsal rooms. The setbacks of the forms respond to the complex zoning requirements stipulated in the program. The project declined the option to demolish two existing buildings, opting instead to refurbish them for use as commercially viable office space for the Opera itself. Also
Also on site, a new open-air public theatre stands open to the outside environment, and a new subway station provides easy, relatively inexpensive access. The new interior of the subway station includes ticketing facilities, restrooms, an information/communication center, and platform-level waiting areas for theatergoers, all elegantly appointed in easily maintained floors, walls, and ceilings of marble and tile.