Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou - design

The design expresses the belief that buildings should be able to change to allow people the freedom to adjust their environment as they need . In addition, the order, grain and scale should be derived from the process of making the building so that each individual element is expressed within the whole. As a result, the building becomes a true expression of its purpose. The key elements of the competition scheme remained intact as the building progressed into the developed design stage, although the interactive information facade, which was conceived as an information wall for use by the Pompidou as well as other external institutions, and the open ground floor were dropped. The building was to have had no main entrance in the traditional manner, rather a permeable ground floor where entrance to all parts of the building could be made. However the fundamental arrangement of the building and its relationship with the city remained as the architects intended.

The entrance to the building is at the level of the street and the piazza and relates to the life of both. Alternative access is via the lifts, escalators and staircases attached to the west facade. Each of the five major floors are uninterrupted by structure, services or circulation .

These huge, open, loft-like spaces are serviced both from above, and from the raised floor for maximum flexibility in layout. The corridors, ducts, fire stairs, escalators, lifts, columns and bracing which would ordinarily interrupt the floors are exposed on the exterior.

Movement was to be celebrated throughout the building, and expressed overtly in the great diagonal stair running up the outside of the building, which affords spectacular views over Paris. The transparency of the facade, the galleries and especially the escalators snaking their way up the side of the building combine to reveal two captivating sights – the tiled roofs and medieval grain of Paris in one direction, and the revelation of the building – a flexible, functional, transparent, inside-out mechanism in the other.

The building is able to be altered in plan, section and elevation to suit changing requirements over the buildings’ life. The notion of flexibility is extended to every component of the building, from large clip-on elements that attach to the main façade, to interior partitions and services.

Envisaged as a ‘communications machine’, the external envelope was designed to carry a skin of constantly changing information. The vertical elements of the expressed services on the east facade are aligned with the adjacent streets to ground the building in its context, while the industrial scaled elements are balanced with fine detailing to match the scale of the street and the proximity of pedestrians.