Starting in 1973, construction of the Foundation begins. Heritage monument architects John Sonnier and Dominique Ronsseray are commissioned by Victor Vasarely to implement the project he personally designed.
The building would include 16 hexagons, each 14 meters wide, from one side to another. The hexagons would come together in a rectangle 87 meters long and 40 meters wide.
On the ground floor, seven “cells”, each 11 meters high, would host Vasarely’s forty-two architectonic installations. The rest of the building included a conference room/auditorium, a library and storage rooms.
Upstairs, Vasarely planned to set up offices and workshops for conducting new research or designing new installations.
Companies were selected in a bidding process. Except for elements which required the most advanced technologies, Victor Vasarely and his team chose only local suppliers.
In December 1973, the first stone was laid. On this occasion, Victor Vasarely left in the building’s foundations a message of which he only shared the first words: “From Cezanne to Vasarely: we will be worthy.”
A number of technical difficulties slowed down the construction process.
Made of aluminum plates anodized in black and white, the facade is an expression of plasticity. Each decorative panel spans a surface of 70 sq. meters. The layout and aesthetics must be perfect for the optical effect sought out by the artist to work.
While innovating with the development of space, lighting and the use of materials, Vasarely expresses his desire to capture the interest of history and culture when he commissions the construction of a staircase modeled on those of the Renaissance castles of Blois and Chambord. Shaped in a hexagon, the spiral double helix staircase connects the ground floor to the portion of the first floor which is open to the public. Each of the two ramps is divided into three successive flights of steps with two intermediate landings. The balustrade is modern for its choice of materials: metal panels and glass plates.
The first stage of work was commissioned in November 1975. At this point, Vasarely is preparing to realize the forty-two installations as well as the building’s interior design.
The installations are set up in such a way as to allow the visitor to progress through the discovery of colors, materials, optical illusions and kinetic effects which stimulate participation but also disrupt and lose the visitor physically, in a space overwhelmed with color and uncertain limits.
Companies from the initial construction phases would return to the site for further work… construction of wooden structures for the mosaic or Briare enamel works, suspension of glass kinetic works, installation of painted hand cut cardboard “plastic units” in the room dedicated to “Planetary Folklore".
As for the rest, companies were selected based on the materials used. Using Victor Vasarely’s layout, these companies assembled installations which measured up to eight meters high and six meters wide.
The works were assembled on site, with the exception of the tapestries, carpets and two aluminum-based pieces.
Architect Claude Pradel-Lebar serves as Victor Vasarely’s advisor for the realization of the 42 monumental works. He also runs the architectonic center from 1975 to 1982.
Just as for the building’s construction, Vasarely leaves no detail unattended with regards to interior design: marble stone from the Alps, state-of-the-art projection equipment for the auditorium, sound in the exhibition area, soundproof offices and research workshops, etc. Benches and seats were ordered from designer Veranneman, who in exchange “commissioned” a sculpture and a gate from Victor Vasarely to install in his own Foundation .
On February 14, 1976, the Vasarely Foundation was inaugurated in the presence of Mrs. Claude Pompidou, Jacques Chirac, prime minister at the time, and Michel Guy, Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs.
The building was built between 1973 and 1976 (year of its inauguration). Its architecture adheres to no specific movement even if its aesthetics do refer to the style of the Seventies, both for the choice of materials (glass, anodized aluminum), as well as for the very idea of bringing together architecture and technological design.
As a “Lumino-kinetic” monumental sculpture, it is a remarkable example of the synthesis between architecture and plastic art. In its blueprints, the artist and the architect Jean Sonnier opted for a system of 16 hexagon-shaped cells: a geometric shape which Victor Vasarely often used in his series “Hommage à l’hexagone".
With 5,000 sq. meters of floor space, a remarkable amount of skylight shines through the building’s fourteen pyramidal cupolas. From outside, a creased curtain- like wall displays a binary alternation of black and white circles and squares. The animation of the facade and its optical illusions prepare the visitor for the kinetic and optical tricks that they will discover once they enter the building.