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Visionary Building by Punk-Rock Architects Under Demo Threat

A plank of steel and glass that looks like a better fit for science fiction than its current home in northwest France, the Banque Populaire de l'Ouest (BPO) Building, a feat of ahead-of-its-time engineering, appears like it was built yesterday, not 1990. Heralded for ushering in futuristic design and technological innovations, the bank building it earned architects Odile Decq and Benoit Cornette more than a dozen major awards. But now that the current owner, who has struggled to sell the custom-designed structure, was recently issued a demolition permit, its future is in doubt. In response, an international preservation campaign has sprung up to try and save the BPO, asking for a one-year reprieve to provide time to find a new use for the building.

Decq and Cornette, a striking design team that dressed in Goth gear, used the BPO commission to experiment with new techniques and technology. The hallmarks of the building, a high-tech addition to a French landscape, featured a number of technical innovations, including aluminum stairways, a completely panoramic elevator and one of the first examples of a dual-skin façade and a suspended glass exterior; the layout accentuates the clear layers that wrap the building, creating a repeating grid of glass and steel. Decq has said that first movement of Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in C was her musical inspiration for the grand exterior.

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