If exposed pipework is all the rage with designers today, back in 1977 it was something of a shock to aesthetes when the Centre Georges Pompidou appeared on the scene like a gigantic inside-out Meccano model. A public library for central Paris had been planned since Charles de Gaulle’s presidency and with the reconstruction of the nearby Les Halles, Président Georges Pompidou (in power from 1969 to 1974) proposed that the Beaubourg area become the location for the library and a new multi-purpose centre for learning and the arts, and the final designs also included a new home for the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Architects Richard and Su Rogers and Renzo Piano imagined the space as a mini-town where visitors could experience film, art, literature (and of course food at the top floor restaurant) all under one roof. And for a long time the roof was one of the most popular areas, with visitors enjoying a free ride up the tubular escalators with increasingly spectacular views of the city with each successive floor. Attracting up to 5 million visitors a year, particularly when major art exhibitions boost numbers, Beaubourg (as it is colloquially known) has defied some of the early critics and become a major draw and added its unique exterior to the canon of images that signify Paris. (It may be of interest for trivia fans to learn that the colourful exterior pipes are coded in a visually mnemonic fashion: blue for air conditioning, green for water, yellow for electrics and red for safety systems.) The centre’s paradigm-shifting design has not been without its issues, however, and the Pompidou centre was closed for remedial renovations from 1996 to 2000, with the next wave of works planned for four years from 2023.
Centre Georges Pompidou, Place Georges Pompidou, 75004. Tel: 01 44 78 12 33.