This week, the A to Z of Expo Architects turns its focus to Greek-French composer, architect and director Iannis Xenakis, who created the revolutionary Philips Pavilion at World Expo 1958 in partnership with Le Corbusier.

Commissioned by the electronics company to design a modern structure to house a technologically advanced multimedia spectacle, Le Corbusier entrusted Xenakis to conceive the pavilion as an experimental project favouring artistic expression. From the outset, the design team aimed to create what would become a synthesis of architecture, image and sound.

Composed of 12 hyperbolic paraboloids joined with reinforced concrete nerves and anchored by a tensioning cable net, the complex geometric structure was self-supporting, without any columns. The pavilion’s engineering displayed a high degree of architectural innovation, demonstrating the capacity and flexibility of reinforced concrete in creating bold and beautiful constructions.

Designed exclusively with the visitor experience in mind, the pavilion’s physical layout was carefully co-ordinated with the specially commissioned music – Poème électronique by Edgard Varèse. Inspired by the shape of a cow’s stomach, the pavilion welcomed visitors through a curved corridor, leading them to the multimedia room equipped with 300 speakers and advanced lighting installations. Providing visitors with one of the first instances of ‘surround sound’, the pavilion created a uniquely immersive experience that continues to be a point of reference in the history of exhibition design.

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