Pathe Foundation
Photo © Michel Denancé

Renzo Piano Building Workshop


In Renzo Piano’s Paris office, a picture of an armadillo is tacked alongside a drawing of the studio’s latest work in the city—the Pathé Foundation. “It took time to develop the final form, but it was one of the first sketches that Renzo did—this little animal or little creation adapting himself to his environment,” says Thorsten Sahlmann, the project’s lead architect. Indeed the aluminum-clad structure, which will house a film archive and research center opening September 10, huddles into its narrow urban site like a critter burrowing into a den. But you wouldn’t know it from the rue des Gobelins: passersby get a hint of what lies beyond the Foundation’s restored historic facade (festooned with reliefs by a young Auguste Rodin) only from a silvery hump overhead. This curved volume, wrapping a steel-and-concrete structure, features a double skin of glass and perforated-aluminum panels serving as a brise soleil. “One of the goals was to get daylight into the building,” explains Sahlmann. The archive is sandwiched between sunlit administrative offices on the top floor and a 70-seat theater and other public spaces on the lower levels. To let in additional light, the architects elevated the form on a glazed volume providing views of a courtyard, which will feature a grove of birch trees—cinema verité at its finest.