New Philharmonic takes wing above Paris periphery

Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:47am EST
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - In the northeast of Paris, steps from the roar of the ring road, hundreds of thousands of aluminum birds soar across the angular carapace of the new Paris Philharmonic, their inlaid wings a lyrical counterpoint to the otherwise colorless spot.

With the opening of a new symphony hall far from the capital's elegant boulevards on former slaughterhouse grounds, Paris hopes to inspire a new generation of music lovers while revitalizing the Porte de Pantin area linking the city and under-served suburbs.

Two weeks after its official opening attended by President Francois Hollande and a host of dignitaries, workmen are putting the final touches to the roof, walkways and facade.

Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, whose designs include Copenhagen's concert hall and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the project has been controversial since its 2006 inception, both over its location and its price tag, now nearly doubled from a preliminary estimate of about 386 million euros ($433 million).

In advocating a first-class symphony hall for Paris, Philharmonic President Laurent Bayle has cited "larger social stakes" -- that it be accessible to all and that its primary aim be to introduce music of all kinds to young people.

That dovetails with a push by city and regional authorities for a Greater Paris to share municipal facilities and bring improved cultural access to those in outlying areas cut off by the "peripherique," the busy, multi-carriageway road that rings the city.

"The Philharmonic is the first landmark in the future Greater Paris," said Bayle, calling the project a "marvelous addition to the east of Paris that is undergoing major change."

The building is next to the "City of Music" center of smaller concert-halls, a music museum and exhibition space dating from 1995 around La Villette park.   Continued...

A general view shows the interior of the new Paris Philharmonic Hall (Philharmonie de Paris) by French architect Jean Nouvel January 22, 2015.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau