In celebration of Piano Renzo‘s 75th birthday I’ll be reviewing probably one of the most controversial, shocking and modern statements in architecture. It was Piano Renzo who designed, gave birth – together with Richard Rogers – to the infamous Centre Pompidou. This building is undoubtedly a marvelous piece of architecture and is a timeless view upon, industrial architecture and industry in it’s whole. Therefore it is not surprising if I tell you that both of them were fascinated by modern (industrial) american architecture like oil rigs and car lots which has been a great inspiration to both of them.
But why is this building so controversial? Why had it to endure so many critique and curses? First of all there is the less obvious reason that the city of Paris was a city dominated by concrete (except for Gustave Eiffel’s Eiffel tower which had to endure the same critique 70 years earlier). This building on the other hand has no concrete which is exteriorly visible, the only concrete used is hidden 3 stories below the surface.
The entire building is build by vertical beams who hold u vertical platforms. Post-lintel you could call it (as in Ancient greek architecture). Of course cross- and v-shaped beams had to be added to support the weight of the floors (6 in total), consisting of entirely open spaces. This is achieved by placing all the functional aspects of the building on the facade (that is to say; the exterior) instead of interior. Everything that was conventionally hidden is now ‘proudly’ and ‘playfully’ shown on the outside of the building. Each color seen on the exterior has it’s own ‘functional’ meaning: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the building itself.
Nowadays the building definitely stands as a monument to Paris. Although it is most often seen as a monument to high-tech, it represents the opposite. Because in reality it’s a parody to high-tech, it was a space ship it would be one designed by Jules Verne, that is to say, it would never work.
Although this building had to endure loads of harsh critique I do believe this is truly a marvelous and wonderful building, which does not at all make the city of Paris ‘less’ beautiful. Not only because it’s a cultural beacon for the entire city (library, music, art, ..) but also because it’s a place where people meet. It’s a public building (which is highly emphasized by the open corridor which takes in 2/3 of the parcel). On top of that it’s the only place in Paris which has a ‘free’ panoramic view. Not to mention that everything seen on the outside (therefore public) is accessible by anyone for no costs.