Centre Pompidou Paris
The Centre Pompidou in Paris is a museum of modern and contemporary art housed in an iconic building sited in the heart of the Marais neighborhood.
Rather than a traditional museum, the Centre Pompidou was conceived as a sort of “art machine” where several semi-permanent and temporary exhibitions are featured at the same time. This concept is fully expressed by the futuristic, “mechanical” look of the building that made it one of the city’s most recognizable museums.
The Centre Pompidou’s iconic building, which was inaugurated on January 31, 1977, is widely considered one of the most important architectural landmarks of Paris and is a very popular tourist destination.
The museum was designed in 1971 by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Gianfranco Franchini, three young and almost unknown architects.
At the time of its 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 caused both praise and criticism.
A view of the Centre Pompidou and the Marais neighborhood from the Montparnasse Tower, photo JMARIEG67 under CC-BY-SA-4.0 license.
Well far from looking like a traditional art museum, the building of the Centre Pompidou resembles a giant machine instead, 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.
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.
Close-up view of the building facades; photo by Robert Occhialini CC BY-NC 2.0.
The east facade of the Centre Pompidou from Rue Beaubourg; photo by August Fischer CC BY-ND 2.0.
What to see and do at the Centre Pompidou
The permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou – comprising 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, and Jasper Morrison, to name just a few.
The Pompidou is one of the most active cultural centers in Europe, constantly featuring exhibitions, workshops, conferences, concerts, and educational programs.
Fully accessible to physically impaired people, the building of the museum also contains two shops, two cafes, and a restaurant with a panoramic terrace.
The Centre Pompidou and its surroundings are also a reference point in central Paris, a place where people from all over the world spend time and express their creativity on the iconic sloping square leading to the museum’s main entrance, simply meet at the center’s cafe, visit its shops, or reaching the panoramic deck on the building’s top to get spectacular views of central Paris.
Centre Pompidou, interior views, photos by Mark B. Schlemmer, Kaysgeog, and Bruno Collinet
A view of central Paris from the panoramic deck of the Centre Pompidou; photo Kostas Limitsios CC BY 2.0.
Cover image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
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