Centre Pompidou Paris
The Centre Pompidou in Paris is a museum of modern and contemporary art housed in an iconic building in the Marais neighborhood.
The Centre Pompidou is a real “art machine” where several semi-permanent and temporary exhibitions are featured at the same time.
The Centre’s iconic building, opened in 1977, is widely considered one of the most important architectural landmarks of Paris and id a very popular tourist destination.
The museum was designed in 1971 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, at the time two young and almost unknown architects.
At the time of completion, the architecture of the Centre Pompidou (also known as Beaubourg from the name of the Paris’ area where it is located) was revolutionary and generated both praise and criticism.
Centre Pompidou, a competition drawing by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, image © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Well far from the traditional aspect of a museum, the building was indeed conceived as a giant machine, with load-bearing structural elements, the main escalators, and most technical services located on the outside to provide maximum flexibility to the exhibition spaces.
The structure, mostly made in steel, was painted in bright colors and turned from a usually hidden element into a distinctive visual feature of the building.
The architects also conceived the center as part of a global network connected through information technology, a sort of primeval vision of a culturally-oriented World Wide Web.
“We recommend that the Plateau Beaubourg is developed as a “Live Centre of Information” covering Paris and beyond. Locally it’s a meeting place for the people. This center of constantly changing information is a cross between an information-oriented, computerized Times Square and the British Museum, with the stress on two-way participation between people and activities/exhibits. The Plateau Beaubourg information center will be linked up with information dispersal and collection centers, throughout France and beyond, university centers, town halls, etc.” (Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers)
This idea explains the big antennas the architects positioned on top of the building in the earlier version of the project.
Elevation from the competition entry illustrating the concept of the building as an interactive billboard, image © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
With a gross floor area of about 100,000 square meters (over 1 million square feet), the Centre was (and still is) one of the largest art museums in Europe.
Competition model by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, image © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Photo © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
View of the museum lobby shortly after completion, photo © Martin Charles
What to see and do
The permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou – amounting to over 100,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art, design, and architecture – is one of the largest in the world and includes masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri Matisse, Vassily Kandinsky, Ferdinand Leger, Constantin Brancusi, Man Ray, Jean Dubuffet, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Le Corbusier, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Jasper Morrison, (,..) just to name a few.
The Pompidou is one of the most active cultural centers in Europe, constantly presenting exhibitions, workshops, conferences, concerts, and educational programs.
The museum includes two shops, two cafes and a restaurant with a panoramic terrace, and is fully accessible to people with disabilities.
The Centre Pompidou and its surroundings are also a reference point in the heart of Paris where people from all over the world express its creativity in the sloping square in front of its main entrance, simply meet at the museum cafe, visit its shops or go up to the center’s panoramic deck on its top-level to get an enthralling view of Paris.
Centre Pompidou, interior views, photos by Mark B. Schlemmer, Kaysgeog, and Bruno Collinet
Cover image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
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