Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers & Gianfranco Franchini
Centre Georges Pompidou (or the Pompidou Center, named for the French President who commissioned the building) is an arts space located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Designed as an “evolving spatial diagram” by the team of architects, the building stretches over 10 floors and contains a modern art collection, space for temporary exhibitions, cinemas, a performance space and public and private libraries. Most distinctively, the building’s insides are on its outsides; the colorful and iconic pipes lining the exterior of the building have been painted in accordance with their uses — blue for air conditioning; yellow for electricity; green for water and red for people movement. As Renzo Piano put it, “all public movement facilities [on the Piazza side] have been centrifuged. On the opposite side, all the technical equipment and pipelines have been centrifuged. Each floor is thus completely free and it can be used for all forms of cultural activities — both known and yet to be discovered.”
The first time I came across the Pompidou Center, over a decade ago, I wondered what this strange industrial building was that had sprouted amidst the traditional Enlightenment-era architecture scattered throughout the city. The building looks playful and functional at the same time; it exposes all of its structural elements, giving a glimpse into its inner workings. Riding the escalators up the outside of the building is a singular experience — the views are stunning, and at the top, on a clear day, you can spot the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur in the distance. You can see all of this, of course, before you even enter the building’s arts spaces; before you even begin looking at the wealth of art lining the gallery walls inside.