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New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998

Dreaming spires

Dreaming spires

Italian architect Renzo Piano's new Centre Culturel Tjibaou has put New Caledonia firmly on the international architectural map. Rising above the lush tropical vegetation of Tina peninsula, just outside Noumea, the striking sculptural forms of Piano's design represent a long struggle for recognition by the Kanak people. Named after the Kanak leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the centre is surrounded on three sides by water and is built on the site of the Melanesia 2000 cultural festival which Tjibaou organised in 1975. Drawing from the interior skeleton of a traditional Kanak house, Piano created 10 soaring pavilions, or iroko, which are linked by a meandering pathway that evokes the central alley of a traditional Kanak village. The seemingly light-weight structures, built from laminated strips of hardwod and metal, contain temporary and permanent exhibition areas, a resource centre and a 400-seat performing arts theatre. "The link between nature and the built structure must be so close that they exude the same smells, breathe the same wind," says Piano, also know in this part of the world for his design of Australia's Parliament Buildings. The Centre Culturel Tjibaou is open daily from 9am to 5pm. For further information fax (00-687) 264 535, email adck@canl.nc or visit the website at http//www.canl.nc/noumea.com.

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