A Streetcar Named Design
Celebrating a new tramway in Paris, Ammar Eloueini's shimmering installation took center stage
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
This 1,500-pound shipping container carried the completed components across the Atlantic.
Short arms supported TV monitors.
Originally a museum, then a factory, the Pavillon de l'Arsenal's building is 130 years old. The 11 armatures were clamped to the catwalk so as not to damage it.
Photography by Christian Richters.
Patience is a virtue. Way back in 2001, the design advocate Pavillon de l'Arsenal—the Paris equivalent of New London Architecture or New York's Architectural League—showcased Ammar Eloueini among other rising stars in "Jeunes Architectures." Eight years later, the organization returned to tap AEDS Ammar Eloueini for the design of an exhibition devoted to the city's new tramway. The T3 line, also known as the Tramway des Maréchaux, was its own exercise in delayed gratification. Though Mayor Bertrand Delanoë had to wage a long campaign against penny-pinching naysayers, then endure another two years of construction before launching the trams, their daily ridership averages a vindicating 100,000, and a second phase is in the works.
Eloueini had plenty of prior exposure to streetcars in general: He splits his time between Paris and New Orleans. But he was given only weeks to determine the specific needs of the Pavillon de l'Arsenal's exhibition on completed and upcoming tram projects. To organize and galvanize the 7,000-square-foot barrel-vaulted gallery, he decided that the design of "Le Tramway: L'Exposition" would require a metaphorical Delanoë, a strong visual champion. And that's when Eloueini zoomed in on the catwalk connecting the mezzanine balconies running down both sides of the cavernous space. "In this big volume, it was very important to have a spectacular moment," he says. "The bridge had the privileged position of being seen from everywhere." There's no missing it now. Eloueini clamped 11 painted plywood armatures to the bridge as supports for hundreds of triangles of clear polycarbonate. Short arms projecting from the armatures also allowed him to mount 10 television monitors streaming video about the T3.
While Pavillon de l'Arsenal staff and other observers have likened the covered catwalk to a tremendous chrysalis, a cocoon of stillness, director Dominique Alba says Eloueini's intervention expresses movement and the future of the tramway itself. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was on the opening day of the exhibition that municipal officials unanimously approved phase two.
Throughout Chicago Scenic Studio: Custom Components.
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