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White Gray Black

Bernard Tschumi (French and Swiss, born Switzerland 1944)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

French architect. He was the son of a well-known Modernist architect and he graduated in architecture (1969) from the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich. In the 1970s he taught at the Architectural Association school in London and during this period he developed the ‘strategy of disjunctions’, a theory based on his belief that contemporary culture and architecture were best expressed by fragmentation as opposed to the classical ideal of unity. Tschumi advocated a ‘post-humanist’ architecture stressing not only dispersion but also its effect on the entire notion of unified, coherent architectural form. This attempt to deconstruct the components of architecture must be seen in relation to the linguistic theories of the French philosopher jacques Derrida. Tschumi exhibited drawings in Europe and North America and designed a number of small experimental constructions that he called ‘follies’, playing on the double meaning of the French word folie as a state of mental imbalance and a small pleasure pavilion. In 1981 he published The Manhattan Transcripts in which he exploited the cinematographic themes of frame and sequence. In 1983 Tschumi won the international competition for the planning of the Parc de la Villette, an ill-defined site of 35 ha in a working-class suburb on the northern outskirts of Paris. Regarding as obsolete the picturesque landscaping tradition derived from Frederick Law Olmsted, he proposed an ‘urban park for the 21st century’, designed as much for urban entertainment and social interaction as for individual contact with nature. His scheme, which paid little attention to existing structures, was based on the superimposition on the site of a series of theoretical points, lines and surfaces, a geometrical concept reminiscent of Vasily Kandinsky’s theories. The programmatic requirements were placed at the intersections of this ‘self-referential’ grid, which was marked by red, neo-constructivist follies. Two long, covered galleries were placed at right angles to each other, while a winding pathway revealed a ‘cinematic’ promenade of thematic gardens. Tschumi built several of the follies and other facilities, as well as coordinating work by other architects and landscape designers. The project gave his career an enormous boost; he was subsequently a finalist in many international competitions including those for the National Theatre and Opera House, Tokyo, and the County Hall, Strasbourg (both 1986), and Kansai International Airport, Osaka (1987). He was appointed Chairman (1987–9) of the Task Force for Flushing Meadows, New York, and in 1988 he became Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University, New York.

Isabelle Gournay
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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