Filler By Proxy LXXVI: Poème Electronique

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Philips PavilionJodru at ANABlog went to see the virtual recreation of the Philips Pavilion from the 1958 Brussels World Fair, and has posted a fascinating summary of little-known aspects of the project.

The design of the pavilion, which housed a presentation of Edgar Varèse’s tape composition Poème Electronique, was attributed to Le Corbusier at the time. The title was in fact Le Corbusier’s idea: “I shall not create a pavilion, but a poème électronique. Everything will happen inside: sound, light, color, rhythm…” He then got Iannis Xenakis, his assistant, to design it for him.

At ANABlog you can see a photograph of the World Fair site, showing the size of the Philips Pavilion, compared to those of the USA and the USSR, along with surprising photographs of the pavilion other than the iconic image on the left. There are also more details about how Varèse tried to exploit the acoustic properties of the pavilion’s interior to the fullest, creating an immersive, spatialised sonic experience (and nixed Le Corbusier’s plans to lecture the audience over the top of his music.)

Plenty more goodies at the Virtual Electronic Poem site, including a Dutch documentary made at the time of the pavilion’s construction, and photographs of the other pavilions at the fair. There’s a lot of retro-futuristic architecture, but there are also the names: Atomium, the USSR, the Tobacco Pavilion, Kodak, Pan Am. Watch the film, and see the world in which the pavilion was built, and the fact that this all happened over a half a century ago really hits home. This temple to modernity was planned by hat-wearing men, built by workmen driving creaky lorries and spraying asbestos like it was whipped cream. It’s a future that never happened, but it’s amazing that it got as far as it did.