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Bourse de Commerce by Tadao Ando

When it was first erected in 1767, Paris’s Bourse de Commerce was a bustling commercial hub trading in grain and goods shipped in from France’s agrarian hinterlands. Over the centuries, it evolved into a modern-day stock exchange, and with this transition, the building — a circular neoclassical edifice capped with a dome Victor Hugo once described as an enormous English jockey’s cap — transformed, too. In the late 1800s, the structure was refurbished and an elaborate allegorical fresco by five artists depicting a glorified chronicle of France’s colonial history came to adorn the soaring cupola.

Bourse de Commerce by Tadao Ando
Urs Fischer’s wax replica of The Rape of the Sabine Women anchors the cast-in-place concrete cylinder in the central exhibition hall. PHOTO: Stefan Altenburger

But in 2021, François Pinault, the founder of luxury conglomerate Kering, revealed the Bourse’s most ambitious renovation yet — this time, by minimalist Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Best known for his spartan chapels and contemplative museums in concrete, Ando reconfigured the one-time economic node into the 10,500-square-metre Pinault Collection, Paris’s most expansive new art mecca.

Bourse de Commerce by Tadao Ando
An illuminated stairway hugs the structure’s perimeter. PHOTO: Patrick Tourneboeuf

The Bourse’s mission was to be a home for the more than 10,000 works of contemporary art Pinault has been collecting for the past half-century. Among them are modern-day giants like Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince, David Hammons and Urs Fischer. “Their works move me,” he notes, “and forcefully express the contradictions and complexities of the human condition and the world around us.”

Best Interiors of 2021: Bourse de Commerce
The walkway above offers panoramic views of the existing architecture. PHOTO: Patrick Tourneboeuf

Ando’s intervention — which comprises 10 exhibition spaces, an auditorium and additional public areas — leaves the architecture of the original rotunda intact. Instead, he inserted a 29-metre-wide cylinder of cast-in-place concrete beneath the glassed-in dome, an austere foil to the dramatic decoration and mural that now peer into its depths.

In addition to the main rotunda, architect Tadao Ando’s refurbishment encompasses additional curving exhibition areas. PHOTO: Aurélien Mole

The structure also functions as a viewing platform with a nine-metre-high circular walkway that runs along the cylinder’s upper ridge, enabling closer observation of the subjects the painting depicts (though perhaps without the necessary reflection such themes deserve — namely, France’s cruel domination of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas in the name of resource extraction).

A subterranean auditorium is located below. PHOTO: Patrick Tourneboeuf

“I came to the realization,” Ando recounts, “that if anything was to be built there, the existing structure had to be preserved, but another universe, our world, could be built inside. I wanted a new architecture — a hyphen between the past and the present — to produce a vision of the future by provoking emotion
in the space.”

Tadao Ando Revives Paris’ Iconic Bourse de Commerce

The former commercial hub turns contemporary art mecca thanks to a subtle yet striking intervention by the Japanese architect.

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