In the city that prides itself on celebrating the old and flirting with the new, there are few things Parisians are willing to compromise on: fashion, cuisine, and architecture.
Introducing a contemporary building to the historic city is rarely an easy battle, but the city’s new modernist addition, La Seine Musicale, is finally open to the public—and the city approves.
Designed by Pitzker-prize winner Shigeru Ban and esteemed French architect Jean de Gastines, the grand music hall sits stoically on the Île Seguin. The little island on the Seine has a colorful past, once housing everything from guingettes (dance halls during the Belle Époque) to the largest factory in France upon its opening in 1929. The architects were adamant about maintaining the island’s industrial past while transforming it into a public space that accommodates the needs of modern day Parisians and tourists alike.
La Seine Musicale beautifully merges a historic setting with an iconic example of contemporary French design. The massive egg-shaped structure is made of glass and lattice of timber laminate, its most notable feature being a “solar sail” which uses 470 photovoltaic panels on movable rails that follow the sun and supply the theater with energy. Taking up a third of the island, the musical hall was designed for the public, so even those who don’t buy tickets to concerts can view them on a giant screen at the building’s entrance that can be seen from almost two miles away.
The building’s interiors are surprisingly organic compared to its tech-heavy exterior. It boasts plenty of stunning wood details and wide open space, inspired by the fluidity of Japanese design. The Grande Seine, a 6,000-seat performance hall, will host shows ranging from concerts to the ballet, while the auditorium is more intimate in comparison, holding 1,150 people. Visitors will also find a rooftop garden that’s almost a hectare in size, recording studios, and a space for resident musicians, the Insula Orchestra.
From the rooftop, you will see the classically-French architecture of Meudon on one end and the Eiffel Tower, defining the skyline, on the other. Although La Seine Musicale is symbolic of the new Paris, the old Paris is never too far out of sight.