Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers, the Centre Pompidou is 40 years old!


The Centre Pompidou is 40 – counting from the moment that an eager public discovered it at its inauguration on 30 January 1977. However, that does not factor in the building’s long gestation period, from the competition to its delivery, which mobilised teams of architects, engineers from design firms and the staff of all the companies involved in building this incomparable edifice. In this presentation in room 1 of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Centre Pompidou looks back over this period, stage by stage, through countless press cuttings, special articles in trade magazines and photographic reports. These all shed light on its construction from its foundations up to its ethereal superstructures.

The original design submitted by the winning team clearly demonstrated the originality of the proposal: a very high building freeing up a public space on the ground – the piazza – and gigantic open spaces unrestricted by any pillars, ducts, fluid pipes or vertical circulation systems, which had been transferred to the outside. The choice of this design, out of the 681 received from all over the world, also illustrated the shrewdness, intelligence and daring of the international jury chaired by Jean Prouvé.



After the appointment of the team headed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, studies began on giving shape to these ideas (still at the project stage), and the frenetic search for functionality and flexibility. Once the architectural aspect was finalised, the next stage was to make it constructible.
Then came the design, with its network of girders connected with beam hangars to the load-bearing structure on the façade.


The construction itself was on a massive scale: the huge terrain produced by the destruction of a slum in the 1930s; the vast amounts of concrete poured in for the foundations and lower levels; the giant Meccano structure that steadily grew from south to north, bay by bay, with enormous beams making their way to the building site at night. Once the shell was built, it had to be equipped with lifts, escalators and gangways, air-conditioning and ventilation, water and electricity. The presence of all these systems, visible from the street, is indicated by a colour code.


The originality of the idea behind the competition – a single building containing a museum, a public library, a centre for reflecting on society and its development and a musical research institution – can be seen in the various spaces and set-ups, all thought up with their future users.
And finally, it was inaugurated, welcoming a public whose enthusiasm was immediate. It is a wonderful story, but we must not forget that it had its share of detractors, disputes and pitfalls too. It was a hard-won battle.

Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Peter Rice at the construction site. (Courtesy Fondazione RPBW)


The Centre Pompidou construction site, in the 1970s. (Courtesy Fondazione RPBW)


13 December 2017 – 12 February 2018
from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Musée – Niveau 5 – Centre Pompidou, Paris