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Le Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou, La Notre-Dame and the Panthéon (image credit Quelle Change)

Le Centre Pompidou
Paris, France

Le Centre Pompidou first opened its doors to the public in 1977. Le Centre Pompidou has its avid admirers but probably also an equal amount of critics. But so did Gustave Eiffel's "Eiffel Tower" when it was constructed in 1889. Le Centre Pompidou is located in city center of Paris and could be considered the Parisian version of New York's MoMA. The building was designed by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, whose architecture symbolizes the(ir) spirit of the 20th century.

Le Centre Pompidou (or Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou...its official name) was the brainchild of the French President Georges Pompidou who wanted to create an original cultural institution in the heart of Paris completely focused on modern and contemporary art, where the visual arts would rub shoulders with theater, music, cinema, literature and the spoken word.

Before the construction:

This picture shows an arial view before construction commenced. The planning site is marked in green. On top, you can see the river "La Seine". On the right you will notice the old marketplace buildings (Les Halles). The main diagonal boulevard that crosses the image is "Le Boulevard de Sebastopol".

One of the old Parisian streets before it was demolished for the construction of Le Centre Pompidou (picture taken around 1930).

After many small streets were demolished, the future site of Le Centre Pompidou was mainly used as a parking lot (picture taken around 1960).

In 1970, an international architectural competition was launched to find the right architect. It was based on a program aimed at achieving the objectives set by President Georges Pompidou and drawn up by the Sébastien Loste team. The commission who was responsible for picking the architect included the internationally renowned architect Jean Prouve. The architects selected by the jury were Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, assisted by Ove Arup and Partners. Several other architects contended for this job including Verner Panton but there are rumors that his never arrived (or where lost) by the commission without further explanation (according to Verner Panton at that time). Here were some other ideas (which were not accepted by the commission):

Above: André Bruyère (France). 1971.

Above: Claude Guilbert, Christian Belser, Alain Challier (France). 1971.

Above: Nabil Abdelhadi, Ezzat Sakr (Egypte). 1971.

Above: Francisco Palacio, Manuel Rul, Benjamin Savage (Mexico). 1971.

Above: Richard John Gabriel (United States). 1971.

Above: Terrance J. Waters (United States). 1971.

But the winning presentation was the one by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, assisted by Ove Arup and Partners got the job. The Centre Pompidou construction office, called Etablissement public constructeur du Centre Beaubourg, was set up at the end of 1971, through a decree by the Ministry for the Arts and Culture. Robert Bordaz was appointed as its chairman.

Above: Le Centre Pompidou during construction (1972).

The centre's architects, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini designed the building on the lines of an "evolving spatial diagram". Le Centre Pompidou's designers aimed to maximize spatial movement and flow to foster an interdisciplinary approach. Color-coded ducts are attached to the outside of the building: blue for air; green for fluids; yellow for electricity cables; and red for movement and flow (elevators) and safety (fire extinguishers).

Above: numerous see-through tubes serve for elevators, walkways and stairways.

The metal framework has 14 partions/levels with 13 bays, each spanning 48 m and standing 12.8 m apart. On top of the posts, on each level, are molded steel beam hangers, measuring 8 m in length and weighing 10 tuns. 45 m long girders rest on the beam hangars, which spread stress through the posts and are balanced by tie-beams anchored on cross-bars. Each level is 7 m high floor-to-floor. The glass and steel superstructure envelops the free open spaces.

Construction work started in April 1972 and work on the metal framework commenced in September 1974. At the same time, the centre's future institutions were defined. In July 1972, the Centre de création industrielle became part of Le Centre Pompidou. In 1974, it was proposed to transfer the collections from the Musée national d'art moderne in Avenue Président Wilson. After almost 5 years of work, the Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou was inaugurated by the President of the Republic Valéry Giscard d'Estaing on 31 January 1977, and on 2 February, it opened its doors to the public.

After renovation work from 1997 to December 1999, it opened to the public again on 1 January 2000, with expanded museum space and enhanced reception areas. Since then it has once again become "one of the" most visited attractions in France. Some 6 million people pass through Le Centre Pompidou's doors each year, a total of over 190 million visitors in its 30 years of existence.

This is what the Le Centre Pompidou looks like today (as an architect once told me "Everything looks beautiful at night"):

Le Centre Pompidou Construction Costs:

Interesting facts: the cost to purchase the land in 1972 was 85,000,000 French Francs (roughly 14 million US Dollars). The entire constructions costs where 993,000,000 French Francs (rougly 170 million US Dollars) give and take. And this was in 1972 so this was an exuberant amount at the time.

Le Centre Pompidou address:

Le Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
4th Arrondissement
Phone: 33 (0)144 78 12 33

Le Centre Pompidou Directions:

Public Library Entrance: Rue de Renard (opposite side of main entrance)
Metro: Rambuteau or Hotel de Ville (Line 11); Les Halles (Line 4))
RER: Chatelet-Les-Halles (Line A)
Bus: Lines 38, 21, 29, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, 81, 85, 96
Parking: Rue Beaubourg Underpass

Le Centre Pompidou Opening Hourse:

The center is open every day excluding Tuesdays and May 1st, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Museum and Exhibits: Open 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Ticket counter closes at 8:00 p.m.; galleries close at 8:50 p.m.). Atelier Brancusi (Performance and Conference Space: Open 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (conference rooms close at 8:50 p.m.). Public Reference Library (BPI): Open weekdays 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; weekends and holidays, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.


Anonymous said…
I was wondering where you found the other architects' illustrations? i'm really interested in piano's and rogers' visualisation...
thanks for any help!