Pompidou Centre – a 70s French radical that’s never gone out of fashion

Pompidou centre – a 70s french radical that’s never gone out of fashion

The much-loved Paris landmark was designed in 1977 by two young unknowns – Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. On the eve of its 40th birthday, they recall the sheer joy and bravado – and the struggle – of creating it

At a press conference in the Élysée Palace, in 1971, President Georges Pompidou was so properly turned out that the soles of his shoes were polished. The hairy young crew who had just won the competition to design the arts centre that would carry his name, beating 680 others, were not. Richard Rogers wore a railwayman’s blue denim suit and a flower power shirt, Renzo Piano a hippiefied combination of beard and tweeds and their partner John Young a sweatshirt that (memories would vary) may have had Mickey Mouse on it. Only Ted Happold, of the engineers Ove Arup, wore a suit and tie. “You are the capitalist,” the president told him.

This tableau captured the grand bargain between radical architecture and establishment politics that generated the famous building that would follow, the Pompidou Centre, sometimes called the Beaubourg, whose 40th birthday is about to be trumpeted with 50 exhibitions and 15 concerts and performances in 40 different cities – an André Breton show in Lille, for example, and an Alain Buffard dance piece in Nimes. And with the passage of time it only stands out more. It has claims to be the most significant single building since the war. It is both a late blossoming of the 1960s and a precursor of the city-boosting “iconic” architecture of the decades since. It is a palace for a media-soaked age, as bright in its reds and blues as colour TV and colour supplements.

In 1968, three years before the memorable press conference, the Paris streets in which the centre now stands had been ripped up by protesting students. Pompidou became president the following year – a conservative with a mission to restore order, who also planned a series of transformative building projects for Paris. Among them was a proposal for a centre of contemporary arts – not just a museum or a gallery, but also a library and a centre for music. His motives would have included a wish to tame the city with a sophisticated form of bread and circuses. As Piano now says: “After 1968, he had to do something, to show something.” […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
TITLE | Founder of Architecture Lab
About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

Leave a Comment