It is difficult to choose a favourite modern building, especially when, at the moment, it seems that it’s unpopular to even admit to liking modern architecture. But I like the French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris (completed in 1970). What appeals is that it is more than just a simple tower stripped of embellishment – it is a spatial experience.
The French Communist Party Headquarters was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, as a ‘house for the worker.’ The main tower sits back from the street, curved around the bright white dome of the main debating chamber protruding through the plaza in front of the building. The carefully proportioned glass façade of the tower was designed in collaboration with Jean Prouve.
The main tower floats above the ground plane. A small white canopy cantilevers out to indicate the entry, where a stair leads you down to the dark cavernous space of the main lobby. The floor of the lobby undulates, covered in a lush, lawn grass green carpet with clusters of low leather seating dotted around the lobby and exhibition area. Rough concrete surfaces of the walls and columns contrast with the smooth white dome of the debating chamber.
Sloping doors in the wall of the dome slide back to reveal the interior of the debating chamber – a fabulous ceiling covered with thousands of white aluminium panels reflecting the light.
The top floor was originally a staff cafeteria (now converted to Party offices) has a spiral stair leading up to the roof terrace. On the roof terrace a series of sculptural forms, seemingly carved from concrete, conceal mechanical equipment and provide a place look back out over Paris.
The Communist Party no longer occupies the whole building. The decline of the Party membership has forced it to rent out space to architects and advertising agencies.
The “My favourite modernist building …” series is in support of Gordon Wilson Flats which is facing threat of demolition.