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Wednesday, October 7, 2015


As it nears its 40th birthday in 2017, the Centre Pompidou remains an enigma since its 1977 completion in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais.

Panned early on, the project (designed by architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano), became an acquired taste once critics realized the public loved the building.  And, it proved once again that in the world of high stakes architecture nothing succeeds like success.  Now popular as an icon of post modern, high tech constructivism architecture, the Centre Pompidou is no longer the world’s most unusual looking structure.  That honor is shared by Daniel Libeskin’s Jewish Museum in Berlin and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao.  Of course that is open to debate.

Named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France from 1969 to 1974 who commissioned it, the centre was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Renzo Piano, left and Richard Rogers
taking the Centre Pompidou escalator to the top.
In an interview with the British press in 2002, (now) Lord Rogers explained design creativity for the Pompidou was helped along with then young architects both having a large dose of naiveté.  Plus it helped to have won French president Georges Pompidou’s competition.

Centre Pompidou houses the Bibliothèque publique d'information (Public Information Library), a vast public library, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.

As a layman, I was curious if the different colors on the exterior had function rather than form.  They did.  On opening day, electrical elements were yellow and orange; large ventilation units were white while smaller vents were blue; elevator and stairs grayish silver; plumbing green and moving parts elements red.  The red zig zag tube that climbs the building is the escalator element. Take that to the top for amazing views of Paris.

The building has attracted more than 200 million visitors to date. And, somewhere near the pearly gates Alfred Gilbert is smiling ear-to-ear.  He invented the classic toy Erector set (1913) and the Centre Pompidou would have brought him tears of joy.

For a terrific web page go to


If you’re a fan of the Pompidou in Paris then you’ll love Renzo Piano’s new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.  Albeit, the new Whit is not as grandiose in scale as the Pomp, but if nothing else is said Mr. Piano knows how to work a skyline.   Please return to Pillar to Post tomorrow for our take on Renzo along the (Hudson) river.

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