Plan for the French Pavilion at the XLIV Venice Biennale of Art

  • Venice, Italy
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Architecture is always a strategy for dealing with reality.

Analysis of constraints in materials, time and money sometimes takes us off the beaten track… and hope springs up when, through an unexpected reversal, the initial negativity of certain limitations turns into the rationale and identity of a strong and apt architecture.


It’s based on demands severely limiting the possibilities for the architect that the plan here was developed, taking us to the future French pavilion in Venice.


No modification of surfaces or volume is allowed without obtaining an exemption from the G.P.R [General Regulatory Plan].

… The idea is to construct a building while respecting the current volumetry and surface (within a deadline of from 12 to 18 months).

Such an exemption may be granted […] by a process that necessitates delays that may run to three or four years…




1st beat: Biennale 92

Committing the irreversible.

Like Alien, a metal monolith bursts out into the middle of the current pavilion.


2 movements

  • 1st movement: Demolition and creation of a large central cubic void.
  • 2nd movement: Setting up of a large steel monolith housing the exhibition rooms.



2nd beat: Biennale 94

The steel monolith pursues the destruction of the pavilion, gets as far as the canal and, being Venetian, opens its façade on to the water.


2 movements

  • 1st movement: Demolition of the pitiful remains of the old pavilion which are then crushed on the spot.
  • 2nd movement: Extending the monolith to the canal.



All this, while making use of chance, linked to the topology of the place, the true trump card played by the goddess Architecture: by rotating 45°, it so happens that the new pavilion deriving from the initial geometric incision is perpendicular to the canal; and that a staircase, tucked away in the ground, when placed at the same angle, maintains the logic and geometry of the main access…


Everything else is just architecture: a simple, minimal, functional volume allowing for the multiple contrasting uses that artists have every right to expect of an exhibition tool: open/shut, illuminated/dark, fractionated/unitary, high/low, simple/complex, elementary/technical. Once the mutation has been performed, the old-fashioned neoclassical French pavilion will have morphed into a testament to the culture of this fin de siècle in a pose – the façade on the canal – that is an homage to Venice.



Jean Nouvel