Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé | Paris
The Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris is a cultural center and museum devoted to cinema; the foundation’s iconic building was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
History and site
The foundation was established in 2006 with the aim to create a center in Paris especially focused on the promotion of cinematography, also by the means of the historical collection of the Pathé film equipment production and distribution company (founded in Paris by brothers Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé in 1886). The Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation is currently headed by Sophie Seydoux, daughter of businessman and Pathé’s former CEO Jérôme Seydoux, whom the foundation is also named after.
The site chosen for the home of the new foundation was that of a historic beaux-arts style cinema building, the Gaumont Gobelins Theater, whose facade on Avenue des Gobelins, in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, was decorated by famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1869.
The facade of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation on Avenue des Gobelins (formerly, the main facade of the Gaumont Gobelins theater); the facade was decorated by Auguste Rodin; photo © Michel Denancé, courtesy of Fondazione Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano’s building
To fit the 2,200-square-meter / 23,700-square-foot headquarters of the Pathé Foundation in the tight site available at the center of an urban block, furthermore in a historical context, Renzo Piano designed a shell-like building encompassing seven stories, two of which underground.
Completed in 2014, the construction, whose curvilinear, organic-shape shell is clad with 5,000 aluminum tiles (some of which perforated) and curved glass panels, accommodates galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, storage rooms, a restoration laboratory, a research library, a 68-seat cinema theater, and the offices of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation. The space between the foundation’s headquarters and the rear facades of the surrounding buildings contains a small garden planted with birch trees, shrubs, and flowers.
From an architectural point of view, two aspects particularly characterize this design by Piano. The first is how the architect coped with natural lighting. The Pathé Foundation’s headquarters are almost completely enclosed by other buildings in a narrow internal courtyard and the reduced distance from the rear facades of those constructions didn’t allow to open windows in the facades of the building.
Therefore, Piano conceived a large “domed” transparent roof on top of the new building in order to provide the two upper floors, which houses the Foundation’s offices and research library, plenty of natural illumination.
The three windowless levels above the ground floor accommodate the permanent exhibition gallery, and storage areas for the foundation’s collection, thus spaces whose illumination requirements could be reasonably fulfilled through artificial lighting only.
The second interesting point is how Piano, by keeping the footprint of the new building as small as possible, was able to create a “buffer zone”, between the new volume and the surrounding buildings, which improves its neighbors’ access to daylight and air.
At the same time, such void emphasizes the “surprise effect” and the visual experience that the visitors have when they glimpse the imposing inner building, which is almost invisible from the street, just after entering the lobby and then when walking throughout the Foundation’s ground floor.
Satellite image with Place d’Italie on the left and the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation on the right; image courtesy of RPBW
Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, view from the east; the ground floor space between the Foundation’s headquarters and the surrounding buildings is filled with a small garden planted with birch trees
Collection and permanent exhibition
The 25,000-piece collection of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation does not include films, while it comprises cinema equipment, promotional graphics and posters, drawings, documents, stage decorations, costumes, books, magazines, and photographs dating from the late 19th century to the 1990s and particularly focused on the history of French cinematography.
Objects from the collection, mostly historical film projectors (about 150) and advertising posters, are exposed in the permanent exhibition, entitled “Gallery of Devices”, located on the Foundation building’s first floor.
Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, permanent exhibition, installation view; the exhibition mostly features historical cinema equipment, and posters
Program of events and activities
The program of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé features temporary exhibitions, film screenings, guided tours, and educational activities for children and families, all focused on the history of cinema.
The foundation’s building does not include a permanent cafe; yet, an “ephemeral cafe” serving drinks and pastries is installed in the internal garden from April to July.
The Foundation is fully accessible to physically impaired people, the nearest underground station is Place d’Italie about 400 meters / 1,300 feet away.
Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation, the aluminum-clad “shell” building seen from the lobby
Close-up view of the building’s skin, consisting of 5,000 aluminum panels
A view of the domed roof at night, clearly showing that the upper part of the building ic clad with perforated semi-transparent panels
The research library, and the meeting/reading room located just beneath the semi-transparent roof
Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation, site plan – ground floor plan; image RPBW
Longitudinal section, image RPBW
Plan of the -1 level which accommodates the special exhibition space and the cinema
Plan of the +1 level with the permanent exhibition gallery
Plan of the +4 level housing the research library, and offices
The temporary exhibition gallery is located on the first underground level, connected to the ground floor by a linear stair
Two views of storage spaces for the 25,000-piece collection of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation
Two views of the permanent exhibition, entitled “Galerie des Appareils” (Gallery of Devices)
The “Charles Pathé” 68-seat cinema
Cover image: The Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation headquarters seen from the east from the internal garden.
All photographs © Michel Denancé, courtesy of RPBW – Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Fondazione Renzo Piano, and Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris
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copyright Inexhibit 2022 - ISSN: 2283-5474