Palais Garnier Restaurant by Odile Decq 28.02.12

RH2014-0016

In a respectful nod to the building's most famous fictional resident, the new restaurant at the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris – designed by French architect Odile Decq – is called Phantom. Decq's intervention is a clever response to the challenging restrictions imposed by the National Commission for Historical Monuments: the restaurant's management has the contract for 20 years and it has to be possible to take out all the new structures after that time.

The restaurant is in the east wing of the building, in the space where carriages used to pull up. To convert what was previously an outside area into an inside one, Decq has enclosed the space with a wavy, glass curtain wall placed just behind the pillars. "The main constraint was the fact that I couldn't touch the [existing] wall, I couldn't insert anything in the wall or in the ceiling of the cupola, so we had to support everything from the floor and play with that constraint."

Six metres up the glass wall, there's a double plate of steel attached by silicon rods to the cornice of the pillars, but the curves in the glass mean that the wall is actually self-supporting.

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Decq's most dramatic gesture was the creation of a mezzanine floor: a white plaster structure, moulded around a steel skeleton, with voids so that the domed ceiling is still visible from the floor. "The mezzanine floor is supported by columns that I put inside the floor, and they come around the pillars – but, again, without touching," says Decq. "The wavy forms come from the first sketch I did. It was easier to turn around the pillars by undulating in waves. It was softer in a way."

Not all of Decq's first thoughts were approved. "At the beginning I was thinking of painting [the mezzanine] black or red, but we came to an agreement that white would be best." Decq's signature shade of red (she has described it as between orange and red) is there in the chairs and carpets, and it lines the curves of the white mezzanine floor. For once, though, Decq's contribution may be one of the most restrained aspects of a building. Elsewhere, it combines so many styles and materials (including Italian and French baroque, pink granite, pink marble and onyx) that one 19th-century critic described it as "an overloaded sideboard".

Decq hasn't quite finished with the restaurant. "The client didn't want to spend so much money on the terrace, but now he regrets that and has asked me to rework it for the next season," she says.

RH2014-0064

 

Image

Roland Halbe

 

Words

Fatema Ahmed

quotes story

The wavy forms come from the first sketch I did. It was easier to turn around the pillars by undulating in waves

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