Atelier Seraji

Temporary American Cultural Center, Paris, 1991-1994

Winner of the international competition for the Temporary American Cultural Center, this project was subject to major physical constraints, such as the presence of three rows of trees within structure. Intended to house offices, language laboratories and exhibition halls, this building in prefabricated materials is part of a tree-lined triangle of approximately 540 m2 at the intersection of two streets. Initially planned for destruction after a period of two years, the structure was set up in three weeks and finally taken down in 1994. In this project Nasrine Seraji reconciled her basic focus on void by placing the building in its context, urban image, functionality and cultural purpose. This protruding "bow", with an affirmed deconstructivist appearance, was provided with spectacular interlocking and inclined cantilevered volumes that seemed to split space. Anchored to the ground by steel poles leaning at an oblique angle, this architecture makes use of dynamism and unbalance through the non-orthogonal organization of its stress-bearing elements. Tension between natural and structural elements is created by setting up a continuous dialog between the poles and the trees, which are the potential columns. Playing with formal opposites, Seraji combines traditional materials (wood and steel) on the inside, and new materials (polycarbonate or triply, reconstituted wood) for the exterior surface. The result creates contrasts between the compact mass of the boxes and the translucent screens, the solids and the voids. Inside, between the existing trees, Seraji gives body to the void by theatrically placing it on stage: the line of the treetops is framed by light grillwork, transforming these natural elements into sculptures.

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