We’ve recently stumbled upon these interesting photographs of “maquettes combinatoires” (combinatorial models) of the Park La Villette‘s “Folies”, featured in the huge collection of the FRAC Centre in Orléans.
Winning project of the 1982 competition, the entry by Bernard Tschumi proposed to distribute the built program into small elements scattered across the whole surface of the park and aligned onto an orthogonal grid where each point is 120 metres apart from the other. Some of the red enameled steel folies host park facilities, like a restaurant, a bar, a club or a first-aid post, other are just sculptural elements.
A cube with a 10,8 m side is the generaing form of each of the 25 “folies” which punctuate the park of La Villette in Paris. The main cube is then subdivided into 27 smaller cubes of 3,6 m each side. In the geometrical creation of each folie, some of the smaller cubes are subtracted, some are presented as an emptied tridimensional grid. Other elements, with a different geometry, are added in collision with the main system. The walls and other interior planes as well as the stairs and the exterior elements, can be combined in order to produce different “folies”, according to several possible actions (repetition, fragmentation, intersection, qualification and distortion).
The name “folies” recalls the “follies” one could find along the pathways of English and French Gardens of the 18th century. The follies were structures with a symbolic meaning or a merely exotic flavour, alluding to the idea of travelling through disparate points in space and time while in a garden.
As Bernard Tschumi wrote, in the Park La Villette the “folies” become something else:
The new meaning of folie [replaces] the extravagant display of eclectic styles with the regulated juxtaposition of unprecedented programmes. The purpose of this operation is to remove la folie from immersion in the historical object and to relocate it on the broader level of abstraction as an autonomous neutral object.
In 1985, Bernard Tschumi asked Frech philosopher Jacques Derrida to write a text about his La Villette project, Derrida accepted producing his first essay on an architectural theme “Point de folie-Maintenant l’architecture“.