Dominique Perrault Architecture


25 | 01 | 2018


from April 10th to July 22th, 2018

The Bibliotheque nationale de France has given its architect Dominique Perrault ‘carte blanche’ to organize an exhibition dedicated to the building he designed in 1989: in accordance with an original ‘mise en abyme’, a large-scale scenography will present the story of the conception and construction of the BnF, one of the most important contemporary public building in France.

“I wish to be launched the construction and fitting-out of the, or one of the, biggest libraries in the world, of a completely new kind.” announced François Mitterrand, President of the French Republic on 14 July 1988.

In 1989, architect Dominique Perrault, aged only 36, was the winner of the international competition. After the Grand Louvre, the Opéra Bastille or the Institut du Monde Arabe, this new project located outside of Paris historical districts completed the policy of major works led during two seven-year terms. The architect’s mission was to create ‘a symbolic place for Paris and a library for France’, a place open to all which would both stand for a public area and an initiatory journey. The project, which was innovative because of its architecture and its settlement in the district, was the founding act of the development of a new neighborhood of Paris. It was also a fundamental creation in the practice of Dominique Perrault and the first example of a ‘Groundscape’ architecture: an architecture considering the subsoil as a search field capable of redefining the nature of our urban territory and designed to outline a new form of urban life. In 2018, the Research Library will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening to the public. At the same moment, the exhibition entrusted to Dominique Perrault by Laurence Engel, President of the BnF, will present for the first time to the general public the history and evolution of this emblematic building labeled as an ‘outstanding contemporary building’. It goes back over a creation process marked by intense and fruitful debates between 1988 and 1998, by the involvement of numerous collaborators and by the various experiments that punctuated its conception and achievement. The exhibition, divided in four major sections, will invite visitors to discover the secrets and wings of the whole project, from its architecture to the definition of its urban settlement, from the creation of the garden to the various furniture elements. The original scenography, a decompartmentalized environment made of hanging mesh strips and immersive screenings creating plays of light and transparency, will echo the architectural elements and the specific furniture elements of the BnF. Some outstanding pieces and documents, highly significant for this turning point in the history of architecture and construction, will illustrate this large-scale work. The original films, sketches, plans and models belonging to the architect’s archives and to various public collections will allow to take a fresh look at this building which is a true symbol of the Parisian contemporary architecture.