The first, electronic-spatial environment to combine architecture, film, light and music to a total experience made to functions in time and space. Under the direction of Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis‘ concept and geometry designed the 1958 World’s Fair exhibition space adhering to mathematical functions (see the design). Edgard Varèse composed both concrete and vocal music which enhanced dynamic, light and image projections conceived by Le Corbusier. Varèse’s work had always sought the abstract and, in part, visually inspired concepts of form and spatial movements. Among other elements for «Poème électronique» he used machine noises, transported piano chords, filtered choir and solo voices, and synthetic tone colorings. With the help of the advanced technical means made available through the Philips Pavilion, the sounds of this composition for tape recorder could wander throughout the space on highly complex routes.
For the performance, 425 loudspeakers, placed at specific points in Le Corbusier’s Philips Pavilion were triggered to sound at specific intervals (as a result, the performance never sounded exactly the same in any specific location).
Commissioned by Philips, an electronics company based in the Netherlands, the pavilion was designed to house a multimedia spectacle that celebrated postwar technological progress. Le Corbusier’s vision was a Poème électronique (“electronic poem”) consisting of an innovative musical score by Edgard Varèse and a photomontage combining images of primitive art with scenes of nuclear war and urban rebirth. The plan of the pavilion was conceived as a “stomach”: visitors would enter through curved corridor, stand in a central chamber for the eight-minute presentation, and exit out the other side.
Because the interior of the Philips Pavilion was experienced in the dark, its architectural form is principally understood from the exterior. The pavilion is a cluster of nine hyperbolic paraboloids, composed asymmetrically to create dynamically-angled contours and constructed out of prestressed concrete. Steel tension cables on the exterior give the pavilion its signature reticulated appearance. According to Xenakis, the idea of using curved surfaces composed of straight lines was inspired by his composition Metastasis, premiered in 1955.