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There are many projects by Renzo Piano that have given him fame around the world, and the “Pompidou Centre” in Paris is one of his most symbolic works, as it represents a turning point in his career, where he started to be globally recognised and known in the field of architecture.
For this project, Piano and his team, composed of Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, won the architectural design competition of the city in 1971. The centre, also known as Beauburg, had a revolutionary design for its time, with its architecture that audaciously inserted itself in the Parisian historic town centre.
The “Pompidou Centre” immediately sparked vast criticism and discussions, gaining simultaneously both admirers and detractors. As of today, almost 40 years after the start of its construction in 1977, the centre is one of the most visited monuments of the French capital, and embodies one of the most famous architectures of the city.
The “Beauburg” was originally a wide square in the centre of the city, when the incumbent president Georges Pompidou decided to reuse the space and build a multi-disciplinary centre, dedicated to contemporary and modern art, design, music, cinema, photography and included a public library, with an overall area of 100.000 m2.
The building presents itself with a parallelepiped structure, sustained by steel and glass walls. The exterior is characterised by the display of structural elements and installations, such as stairs, lifts, ventilation systems, pipes and so on. All of these elements that make up for the exterior are colour coded: blue is used for ventilation systems, yellow for electric systems, green for hydraulic installations and the red are used for stairs and lifts. This structural and stylistic choice has freed a total of a 7500m2 area. It has therefore been simpler to host exhibitions, which can be put up more quickly too as all the installations are part of the exterior design rather than the interior.
Renzo Piano, with the design of the “Pompidou Centre”, has presented an industrial design, simplistic and efficient that challenged, at the time, the stylistic equilibrium of the architecture of the town centre. This building g is the living embodiment of modern architecture and its slogan “Ornament is crime”; Renzo Piano has condemned sterile and complex decorations in order to focus on the function and role of architecture. This has allowed the design of the “Pompidou” centre to be very provocative and revolutionary, as with its new industrial look disrupted the balance of the Parisian architecture. The technology and the structure adopted have characterised the design of the building as no other building has done before. Not even in buildings such as the “Seagram Building” by van der Rohe and the “Villa Savoy” by Le Corbusier, which both pledged to Adolf Loos concept of “Ornament is crime” and shaped modernism, the architects have pushed the boundaries of design in the same way has Piano has. The “Pompidou Centre” is a building where the focus has been put of making the function of the building become the real protagonist, with the structural elements building up the exterior design and allow thousands of visitors to enjoy freely a variety of large areas.
This building, with its provocative design, can be either loved or hated, but it is undeniable that Piano and his partners have designed a truly unique and singular building.
Image credits: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Pompidou_Centre_building_technology.jpg