When internationally acclaimed artist Victor Vasarely imagined the “Cité polychrome du Bonheur” (“Polychromatic City of Happiness”), he imagined a center that would bring together urban planners, architects and artists. In 1966, Vasarely established a Foundation to promote his ideas of “art for all” and of the “city of tomorrow”, a city in which art harmoniously blends with architecture.
“Our existence is driven by two major forces: renewal and preservation. While the world advances from the past into the future, as individuals, we travel from the future into the past ... this is our tragedy."
Victor Vasarely did not create the Foundation to transform his work into relics from the past or to create a haven for memories. The center thrives on the innovation and creativity of the future, focusing on science, computers and new technologies.
The very essence of Vasarely’s works contradicts with the idea of preservation for the mere sake of posterity. The artist creates in and for the present and more particularly for the future, with no special consideration for becoming a cultural heritage site or for writing a page of history.
"The future takes shape in this new geometric polychromatic and solar city. Here, plastic arts will be kinetic, multi-dimensional and collective… most definitely abstract and inseparable from science ."
In 1966, reminiscent of the Bauhaus model for an Applied Arts school which he intended to create upon arriving in Paris 35 years earlier, Vasarely imagines making the Foundation an experimental research center. When the Foundation is inaugurated in 1976, it is an instrument of society through which diverse skills and trades unite to contribute to the development of “the polychromatic city".
In Aix-en-Provence, Victor Vasarely applies what he calls a new “social techno art.” Considered an exceptional act of generosity towards the community, this new art aims to integrate art into architecture and popularize culture and plastic art through the mass production of artwork.
All trades involved in the process of designing an urban environment or of designing architecture would come together within the Foundation. Artists, urban engineers, sociologists, psychologists, architects – all would work together to design the building and its setting together.
"The synthesis of plastic arts is a lure which can only produce a Renaissance much worse than the first. It is absurd to designate a specific place for setting, even if it is abstract. The right method is integration; setting is born at the same time as the building itself and plastic arts are intrinsic to building materials and architectural structure."
According to Victor Vasarely, “we must fight against the visual pollution caused by the massive apartment buildings built in the 1960s which were inhuman and devoid of life. We must help people escape the dullness of their daily routines” by bringing color to them through the integration of plastic arts. “The integration of esthetic beauty into architecture is made possible by the use of prefabricated building materials which are meticulously selected for their attractive features. As unprecedented demographic booms occur around the world, the development of major building programs in urban and rural communities becomes increasingly common. Scientific inventions have completely transformed the building trade. Prefabricated parts are becoming one of the major industries of today’s consumer society. Not only are the tangible elements of building design (comfort, hygiene, space, light) important, but the intangible, mental elements must also be taken into consideration in the design of a city – these are just as crucial to our health as oxygen, vitamins or even love."
In the late 1960s, many architects share Victor Vasarely’s point of view. They question the events of the preceding decade, including research done on mega structures designed to house entire cities, and they turn to the use of new materials.
They also reflect on the idea of a building designed to evolve with needs as they change.
In designing the Centre Georges Pompidou (1971-1977), Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano introduce steel and use a multipliable lattice structure which allows for a constant modulation of space. At the same time, David Georges Emmerich is working on “tensegrity” structures (for “tensional integrity,” based on a balance between tension and compression components), which evolve from a single and repetitive module.
It is in this frame of mind that Victor Vasarely designs his building, choosing prefabricated components to build the modular concrete structure. He also designs a building which is expandable to be able to create new workshops, new venues for exhibiting art… the hexagonal shape is used as a base model and each cell structure is independent.
With the blueprints in hand, Vasarely’s Foundation is ready for launch. All that’s missing is a location.