The Philips Pavilion, Brussels World's Fair 1958

Related article:

Iannis Xenakis: Who Is He?

In synchronization with
Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary,
an exhibition of Xenakis' drawings, sketches, and
other visual materials at The Drawing Center
through March 2010

Electronic Music Foundation

Poème Electronique

When Louis Kalff, an executive at Philips Corporation in Eindhoven, Holland, called Le Corbusier in Paris to invite him to design the Philips Pavilion for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958, Le Corbusier answered: "I shall not create a pavilion, but a poème électronique. Everything will happen inside: sound, light, color, rhythm ..."

Iannis Xenakis said, "They asked Le Corbusier to design something and Le Corbusier asked me to design something ..."

EMF presents a virtual-reality re-creation of the multimedia spectacle presented in the Philips Pavilion in 1958, with music by Iannis Xenakis and Edgard Varèse and images chosen by Le Corbusier.

Friday, January 15
Judson Church
55 Washington Square South
New York City

The spectacle, about 15 minutes long, will start every 30 minutes on the half hour, at 7, 7:30, 8, 8:30, 9, and 9:30pm. 

Admission: $1 per ticket per show. If you enjoy our productions, please note that an additional voluntary contribution will support our work.

Tickets can be purchased at the door. For reservations and/or further information, email Let us know which show you plan to attend.

If you'd like to support EMF's programs, click here to make an additional donation online.

Or call us at (888)749-9998.

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Vincenzo Lombardo

The Virtual Poème Electronique project was conceived by Vincenzo Lombardo, Professor of Informatics at the School of Multimedia and Arts, University of Turin, Italy. Funded by the European Union through its Culture 2000 program and implemented by a group of researchers and artists throughout Europe, the project's realization began with historical research in the recovery of original material, then continued with audio and virtual-reality engineering to re-create the experience of the public in 1958, including the musical and visual content and the spatialization effects.

For further information on the VEP Project, visit the VEP website.

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This event is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Additional funding has been provided by Amphion Foundation and numerous individuals. Special thanks to Peopleserv, Inc., a corporate sponsor of EMF's events.

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Vincenzo Lombardo introduced the Virtual Electronic Poem project at 6.
Then the show, about 15 minutes long, began every half hour between 7 and 9:30
with the entry of a new audience and the exit of the previous audience.

Concret PH.........................................................................................................................Iannis Xenakis
    Entry and exit music between shows

Excerpt from Concret PH

Vincenzo Lombardo made a few introductory remarks before each show ...

And then guided the audience on a virtual walk through the pavilion,
with Varèse' music and Le Corbusier's images.

Poème Electronique.............................................................................................................Edgard Varèse
    With projected images chosen by Le Corbusier

Excerpt from Poème Electronique

A few examples of the images


Iannis Xenakis
Iannis Xenakis, civil engineer, architect, associate of Le Corbusier in the 1950s, is among the most radical and original of 20th-century composers. Pioneer in electronic music and in the use of stochastic processes, he is the author of Formalized Music, founder of CEMAMu (Center for Studies in Mathematics and Automated Music), and recipient of the prestigious Kyoto Prize.

Edgard Varèse
One of the most original composers of the 20th century, Edgard Varèse, in his instrumental music as well as his electronic compositions, created a style based on organized sound rather than traditional musical values. Born in France in 1883, he lived in New York from 1915 to 1928 where he achieved distinction as a conductor. He returned to France, then returned to New York in 1933.

Le Corbusier
Among the most important architects in post-war Europe, Le Corbusier, painter as well as architect, defined a key to mass-production architecture that he called the Modulor, a scale of values based on the golden mean that served as a guide to construction. In 1956, he accepted Philips' commission to design a pavilion for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. He delegated the project to Iannis Xenakis.


In January 1956, Louis Kalff, an executive at Philips Corporation in Eindhoven, Holland, called Le Corbusier in Paris to invite him to design the Philips Pavilion for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. Le Corbusier answered: "I shall not create a pavilion, but a poème électronique ..."

In telling the story of his involvement in the project, Xenakis, who was working for Le Corbusier at the time, said, "They asked Le Corbusier to design something and Le Corbusier asked me to design something. At that time, I was very much interested in shapes like hyperbolic paraboloids ... and so I organized them to form a shell in which we could produce sounds and images on the walls ..."

The World's Fair opened in May 1958. The multimedia spectacle in the Philips Pavilion, repeated several times every day, consisted of Xenakis' Concret PH, composed with the sound of smoldering charcoal; Varèse' Poème Electronique, with the sounds of percussion, electronic tone generators, machines, and the human voice played through 400 loudspeakers, mounted in groups to enable 'sound routes' through the space; and colored light forming a background to Le Corbusier's projected images of monkeys, shellfish birds, religious objects and art from different cultures, parts of the Eiffel Tower, Laurel and Hardy stills, nuclear explosions and other war imagery, and buildings from different countries.

The architecture and the multimedia spectacle attracted more than two million people during the Fair. It was a total experience of vision and sound, a total immersive environment with the space of the Pavilion hosting the musical and visual materials as integral parts of the architectural design.

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The documentation for the VEP (Virtual Electronic Poem) project includes the following text:

Starting from the available historical sources (the control score of the visual show with handwritten annotations by Le Corbusier at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the initial control score available from the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, a fragment of the control instructions for audio routing on the 350 loudspeakers published in the Revue Technique Philips, the Philips Company photographic archives, albums and catalogues of the ’58 Expo, original audio tapes at the The Hague Conservatorium), it has been possible to recreate the audiovisual show in all its components (the electronic music by Varèse and the interlude by Xenakis, the film by Le Corbusier and Agostini, light ambiances designed by Le Corbusier and Kalff, light effects – tritrous, sun, moon, stars, lightning, clouds) and to stage it inside a computer graphics reconstruction of the Philips Pavilion.