PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Great Starting Points

BERNARD TSCHUMI  is one of the most famous architects, you’ve never heard of.  He was 39 years old before he built anything.  On Thursday, he told us why.

Until he received his first commission, the Parc de la Villette in Paris, Tschumi was a “paper architect.”  Experience has taught him that a site is not like a white sheet of paper.  Every site has constraints, rules, regulations, topologic challenges. The key he said “was to take advantage of them.  It’s a puzzle to resolve, just like playing chess.”

The Alesia Museum and Archaeological Park in Alesia, France was the site of the Battle of Alesia in 52BC.  It was fought by Julius Caesar and his army against the Gallic tribes.  The Siege of Alesia was considered one of Caesar’s greatest victories.  Tschumi described how he strategically approached the site.  His round building gives the visitor a 360-degree panorama view of the battle.  The same view Julius Caesar had.  
Tschumi has been teaching for many years.  Asked what he gets out of it?  He answered without hesitation.  “I teach to learn about myself.  It’s opportunity to develop ideas with students.  It forces you to articulate a way of seeing.”
 

The gardens, I have designed, are sites with every imaginable problem.  Last night, Tschumi’s compared the difficulties of a building site to a founding principle of martial arts “use the strength of your opponent to defeat him.”  The next time, I am stymied, I will think about that adage and perhaps, gain a little solace.

Art de Vivre
Creative Leaders
Bernard Tschumi
 interviewed by Michael Boodro
fi:af
Wednesday, November 14

all images courtesy of Bernard Tschumi



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