Architectural Gems: Centre Cultural Tjibaou

The Pacific island of New Caledonia, located some 3,290 km from Australia

The Centre Culural Tjibaou is a special place though few people have visited it. Located in the remote New Caledonia island in the Pacific, this architectural gem sits literally in the middle of earth, sky and sea sea. The complex, was designed by Renzo Piano (b. 1937) whose notable buildings include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, among others.

Completed in 1998, the Cultural Centre Tjibaou comprises ten ‘huts’ clad in wood and steel. They rise in synchrony in curved shell shapes of different heights, forming a crown that opens up to the multicolored Polynesian sky. The huts are spaced such that when the ocean breeze blows through them, the staves vibrate, producing an enchanting musical sound. Inside, the huts house exhibition spaces, offices, a library, a conference room and school recreation areas for art and crafts courses.

The Center Tjibaou is a cluster of ‘huts’, small pavilions and tree-filled spaces surrounded by water on three sides. The site’s lush vegetation is cut through with trails and paths, amongst which there are ‘villages’: clusters of buildings with strong ties to their context, their semicircular layout defining open communal areas.

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