Paul Andreu

Paul AndreuPaul Andreu (born 10 July 1938) is a French architect. He is best known for having planned numerous airports worldwide, notably Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila), Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Jakarta), Shanghai Pudong International Airport (China) Abu Dhabi International Airport, Dubai International Airport, Cairo International Airport, Brunei International Airport, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, and Paris – Orly Airport.

Other projects include the Grande Arche at La Défense in Paris (as associate of Johann Otto von Spreckelsen) and the National Grand Theater of China enclosed in a titanium and glass shell near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square which was inaugurated on 22 December 2007.

Paul Andreu was born in Caudéran, Gironde, and graduated in 1958 from the École Polytechnique.

Paul Andreu has been in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport (Roissy) in Paris since 1967. On May 23, 2004, a portion of Terminal 2E’s ceiling collapsed, killing four people. Terminal 2E, inaugurated in 2003, is the seventh terminal at Roissy by Paul Andreu, and has been described as one of his boldest designs.The collapse was attributed by the ad hoc administrative enquiry commission to a variety of technical causes and the lack of margins of safety in the design. Andreu blamed the collapse on poor execution by the building companies.

Paul Andreu: I have designed and built many airports.I have, in particular, worked without interruption, over a period of thirty years, on the original conception and later development of Paris’ Charles-de-Gaulle airport. Going back over the same subject again and again, becoming “a specialist”, is good schooling in what it means to be serious and humble. This constant returning to the self-same demanding problem clarifies much about what architecture is, about the necessity for it to be grounded in usage and functionality as well as in technique and construction, and the even greater necessity for it to surpass them all in order to exist in the realm of intelligence and art.

Beyond immediate functional issues, building an airport involves tackling many of the problems of modernism. Indeed, an airport is the site where the universal technical culture, of which the plane is both product and symbol, most visibly confronts the specific culture of a place. Working on an airport inevitably summons up a search for roots in a ground, attachment to a landscape, resonance of forms in history, but also the discovery of a universal space, and this without resorting to preconceived answers, to all too hasty, convenient and trendy solutions.

What I am seeking in any project is at once its inner coherence, its intelligibility, and its relationship to the outside. I regard each project as a complete, self-enclosed world and, at the same time, as but a part of a vaster whole that can be linked to the physical place, the site, and more generally to the environment, but often as well to a whole that only the mind is capable of reconstructing on the basis of scattered elements. In this way, I often think of terminals as fragments of a larger all encompassing system, and more generally speaking, I consider the wide range of projects that I have tackled as detached pieces in the dispersed body of the city.

But because city and landscape are caught today in a contradictory dual movement that alternates between unity and dispersion, many of my other projects are underpinned, on the contrary, by a quest for an “attachment to landscape”.

Another idea which is a prime mover in my work is that when a thriving architectural structure leaves the hands of the architect, it is in unfinished state. To bring it to completion, it must be confided to the elements: to light, to wind, to water.

This idea keeps returning, ever more forcefully, whenever I reflect upon what has become of my projects: from the central space of the first Charles-de-Gaulle terminal opened to the unexpected dimension of the moving walkways and to the ever changing patterns of water, up until my recent projects whose forms incorporate the patterns created by sunlight or whose completion is wholly dependent on a fragile, fleeting reflection.

My work with light in the recent T.G.V.
(high-speed train) station at Charles-de-Gaulle airport and in the upcoming extension to Terminal 2 is to be regarded from this standpoint. I am interested in attaining a sense of weightlessness and transparency and I strive to tackle all the details of construction with great precision and truthfulness.

But to me what matters most in the space itself, its structure and its bounds as defined by the material which stands out against the light or dissolves into it.

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