In 1970 an international architectural competition was launched based on a program to build a cultural and arts complex in the centre of historic Paris set out by French President Georges Pompidou. Chaired by the French architect Jean Prouvé, the prize-winners selected by the jury were Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, assisted by Ove Arup & Partners. The structural engineers in charge on Arup's behalf were the Englishman Edmund Happold and the Irishman Peter Rice who had already worked together on the structural design for the Sydney Opera House. Construction work started in April 1972 and work on the metal framework was begun in September 1974. On February 2nd 1977, the Centre Pompidou opened its doors to the public.
Design ConceptRogers' and Piano's concept for the Centre Pompidou drew major influences from the works of Cedric Price who experimented in the 1960s with open forms and flexible spaces. To maximize internal space, they turned the construction inside-out and exposed a skeleton of brightly colored tubes for mechanical systems. The ducts on the outside of the building are colour-coded: blue for air, green for fluids, yellow for electricity cables and red for movement and flow (elevators, stairs) and safety (fire extinguishers). As with Price's Fun Palace, an unbuilt project, the priority was to maximise functional movement and flow, freeing up internal space and facilitating the interaction between different disciplines.
Urban ContextA further important element was the architect's intention to create a meeting space not only for the art lover, but also for the local residents. The large slightly sloped paved piazza in front of the building fulfills this role introducing the high-tech structure of the building to its traditional surrundings and Paris street life. On hi website Richard Rogers notes that "Pompidou proves that modernity and tradition can profitably interact and enhance historic cities."
Building StructureThe building was designed on the lines of an "evolving spatial diagram" in two parts: firstly, a 3-level infrastructure housing the technical facilities and service areas; secondly, a vast 7-level glass and steel superstructure, including a terrace and mezzanine floor, concentrating most of the centre's areas of activity. The building's metal framework has 14 porticos with 13 bays, each spanning 48 m and standing 12.8 m apart. On top of the posts, on each level, are moulded steel beam hangers, measuring 8 m in length and weighing 10 tonnes. 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 storey is 7 m high floor-to-floor. The glass and steel superstructure envelops the free open spaces.
The Centre Pompidou houses a museum of modern art, reference library, industrial design centre, temporary exhibition space, children’s library and art centre, audio-visual research centre (IRCAM) and restaurants. It underwent renovation from 1996 to 1999 and reopened on January 1st 2000. In 2010 an extension to the Centre Pompidou designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opened as the Centre Pompidou Metz in the west of France.