Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa

The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre was erected to honor Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the political leader of New Caledonia who led the independence movement on behalf of the Kanak people against the French occupation and was assassinated in 1989. It is located in Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia. In 1991, the government held an international competition for a cultural centre that would celebrate the Kanak culture native to New Caledonia. The world-famous Italian architect Renzo Piano won the competition and built his project from 1993 to 1998. The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre is one of the most famous buildings in New Caledonia.

Jean-Maria Tjibaou Cultural Centre

Piano’s main intention was to intertwine traditional Kanak architecture with modern architectural elements. He took inspiration from Kanak’s ties with nature, and his project aimed to meet traditional Kanak buildings with modern materials like glass and steel. He closely worked with locals like Marie-Claude, the wife of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, and the anthropologist Alban Bensa.


The Centre consists of huts, tree-filled spaces, and small pavilions representing the communal life of the Kanak people. There are ten huts with different sizes ranging from 20 to 28 meters in height and they have various functions. The first group of huts is used to hold exhibitions; the second group has research areas, a conference room, and a library. Finally, the third group is used for artistic activities like dancing, music, and painting. It sits on the Tina Peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. The lush vegetation on the site is cut through with trails and paths

Jean-Maria Tjibaou Cultural Centre

The curved shape of the huts was inspired by the traditional Kanak chief’s houses. However, rather than the traditional woven vegetable fiber, Piano used wooden ribs and slats. The ”incomplete” situation of the huts may symbolize the fact that Kanak culture is continuing to grow and evolve from its ancient roots.

Jean-Maria Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Jean-Maria Tjibaou Cultural Centre