Exercise 1: Design Strategy and Case Study Analysis

The story goes that Napoleon III was attending the Opera of Rue Le Peletier when he barely escaped a bomb in an assassination attempt. This led him to getting a new opera house built where he could safely attend. He designed it so that he had his own private entrance. So in 1860, Napoleon held a competition, internationally, for the design of the new Paris Opera. An unknown architect called Charles Garnier won the competition. In 1861, Garnier began construction and so with his own designs and collaboration with other artists and sculptures, it was finally completed 15 years later.

Fig. 1 – Entrance to the Palais Garnier Opera House, Paris

In 19th century Paris, the Opera Palais Garnier was the place to see and be seen and was strategically situated amongst international trade, tourism, finance and the world’s finest hotels, if you were attending the Opera house it wasn’t to view the great artists or the dance hall, it was to show off your wealth and power. Men would be accompanied by their mistress or wife who would dress to impress weighed down with big gemstones. Or men would attend in the hope of finding a mistress.

Built using marble, stone, porphyry and gilded bronze staging lavishly decorated marble friezes, columns and statues, many of which portray deities of Greek Mythology. This image shows the names of the statues and where they are placed on the facade.

Fig. 2 – Image of front of the building showing names of statues

The interior greets you with richly decorated multiple foyers, each one grander and more ornamental than the one before, before approaching the staircase built entirely from marble. The building is so complex, it has 2531 doors, 7593 keys and 6 miles of underground tunnels. Its rich decorating and mix of different religions and cultures gives this building an immersive experience.

Fig. 3 – Palais Garnier Grand Foyer

The Phantom Opera Restaurant was built within the lower floor of the Palais Garnier in 2008 and opened in 2011. Plans were always in place for a restaurant but it was built 136 years later! The restaurant interior can be seen from the streets outside, the striking red chairs, benches and the floors are very theatrical reminiscent of the phantom of the opera which was once performed within the auditorium, it harmonises with the building’s rich history. Visitors pass the facade’s original pillars to enter the building where a plaster coated steel structure wraps around and through the columns without touching it. Each column consists of a hollow steel-mesh tube cloaked with plaster. To prevent interference with performances, a porous, acoustically absorbent plaster coats the mezzanine’s low walls and concave underbelly. Carefully placed speakers let restaurant staff fine tune sound levels throughout and prevent excessive noise from building up at any location. The undulating glass veil wends its way around the stone columns and soars to the curved ceiling which consists of two sheets of thick laminated glass. The glass and steel structure is removable if and when the space has to revert back to its original state, designed and built as an Insertion; a new element that has been built to fit within an existing space. 

The phantom Opera Restaurant sits on the north west facade and will get the morning sunshine. The sun rises in the east and so natural light will flood through the windows all day but visitors will be able to enjoy sitting outside in the shade from midday onwards. 

Fig. 5 – The glass wall and mezzanine that houses the restaurant

The glass itself is held in place by a single strip of bent metal that runs round the curves following the contours of the building.  And then this strip of metal is fixed to the upper cornices of the columns an impressive 6 metres up, by connecting rods, so as to give the illusion of magic, space and uninterrupted views.

With this information I have created an A3 presentation document. It refers to how the building looked originally and how the insertion has been fitted. It was interesting researching the Palais Garnier, finding out why it was built and when and by whom. To know that plans have always been in place for a restaurant but not designed and created for 136 years was surprising. My research methods have improved and my skills to apply the information in a document is also improving. I am taking more care in choosing images that mean something. I’m also thinking carefully about the wording and making the text and images count within the document whilst also thinking about the design and layout. Over the last couple of years I have been creating presentation documents and as I refer to previous documents I can see the improvement. I have also taken advice to sketch more often, I can also see improvement in my sketches and that is because I’m making it a habit.

References & Images

Fig. 1 – Entrance to the Palais Garnier Opera House, Paris

Fig. 2 – Image of front of the building showing names of statues http://pakdoktergolfblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/palais-garnier-paris-opera-house.html (accessed 28/4/23)

Fig. 3 – Palais Garnier Grand Foyer https://500px.com/photo/63799127/palais-garnier-grand-foyer-by-steven-blackmon (accessed 28/4/23)

Fig. 4 – Aerial image of the Paris Opera building and images of the north west facade https://www.designboom.com/architecture/odile-decq-phantom-opera-restaurant-paris/ (accessed 28/4/23)

Fig. 5 – The glass wall and mezzanine that houses the restaurant https://www.designboom.com/architecture/odile-decq-phantom-opera-restaurant-paris/ (accessed 28/4/23)

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