Bold, controversial yet intrinsically unique, the Centre Georges Pompidou has split local opinion since its epic construction in the 1970s, erected as a rejuvenating cultural hub amidst a decaying Paris suburb.
Four decades after its assembly, this innovative establishment remains a hugely successful attraction despite its contentious appearance, welcoming around 20,000 visitors per day. Home to a vast public library, one of the world’s most important museums of modern art (MNAM), a musical research complex, a cafe, store, restaurant and a panoramic terrace, the Centre Pompidou makes an enriching retreat for a memorable Parisian encounter.
The institute came to life as the result of a design competition instigated by President Pompidou in 1969, an initiative aiming to inject much needed vitality into the lifeless Beaubourg district of the capital’s 4th arrondissement. A collaboration of two Italians, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, and an Englishman, Richard Rogers, succeeded with their revolutionary vision, proposing an architectural wonder to challenge the community and astound the world at large.
Indeed, the building’s facade provides something of a shock to first time guests, with its exoskeletal form presenting a dramatic, contemporary contrast to its historical surroundings. Primarily utilising glass and steel, the monument distinguishes itself from the majority of structures by placing its functional elements, such as water and air conditioning pipes, outside the interior, allowing maximum internal space for cultural activities. The architects enhanced this unusual concept by colour coding the components, with blue used for circulating air, yellow for electricity, green for water, and red for people, with escalators and lifts also adorning the exterior.
This inimitable aesthetic creates the ideal setting for inspiring exhibitions, which includes Europe’s largest assortment of contemporary and modern art. Showcasing over 60,000 pieces from the current and previous century, art enthusiasts will have their work cut out to enjoy such an immense anthology of photographs, sculptures, paintings and videos in a single viewing. Aside from the permanent collection, rousing temporary expositions offer fresh alternatives, with each artwork presented in a simple yet accessible manner.
The venue comes highly recommended even for non art lovers due to its blatant architectural prowess, its lively energy, and its wonderful surrounding plaza brimming with sculptures, street performers and an eclectic throng of admirers. Another highlight is of course the fantastic fifth floor terrace, with views stretching across Paris at perfect elevation, particularly entrancing as the sun sets on the indisputable City of Lights. Adored by many and abhorred by some, there is no denying the institution’s intense attraction, which offers an interesting and unforgettable excursion from your Paris rental apartment.
Queues can be quite lengthy at the museum’s opening hour so entrance in the afternoon is advisable, also allowing you to experience those breathtaking panoramas during the evening. All information regarding the Centre Pompidou can be found at the excellent website: www.centrepompidou.fr/en.