T he     Beaubourg                        ExperimentbyALUN DOLTONDissertation Submitted to theBirmingham School of Archite...
AbstractThis study is about a process, an experiment, focusing onthe Centre Pompidou at Beaubourg in Paris. Designed byRen...
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The Beaubourg Experiment
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The Beaubourg Experiment
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Dissertation submitted to Birmingham School of Architecture in partial fulfilment of Post Graduate Diploma in Architecture. September 1998

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The Beaubourg Experiment

  1. 1. T he Beaubourg ExperimentbyALUN DOLTONDissertation Submitted to theBirmingham School of ArchitectureUniversity of Central EnglandIn partial fulfilment of thePost Graduate Diploma inArchitecture
  2. 2. AbstractThis study is about a process, an experiment, focusing onthe Centre Pompidou at Beaubourg in Paris. Designed byRenzo Piano and Richard Rogers and built between 1973and 1977, it places the Centre in a chronological context,viewing it as an experiment in architecture on a colossalscale. It investigates the ongoing architectural process thathas resulted in the building of, and the phenomenon ofCentre Pompidou.
  3. 3. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t C o n tents PagePreface Beaubourg! 6Introduction The Beaubourg Process 9Chapter 1 Before Beaubourg 11Chapter 2 The competition 23Chapter 3 The Design process 29Chapter 4 Beaubourg, effective? 36Chapter 5 The Beaubourg Legacy 46Conclusion Learning from Beaubourg 55Bibliography 57List of illustrations 60Appendix Fragmentation and Simultaneity 63
  4. 4. T he Beaubourg E xp er imen t Beaubourg! Preface . From the terrace of the Sacre Coeur (church of the Sacred Heart), the Parisian roofscape stretches out for miles into a vast, diverse panorama, the bustle of the densely packed streets seems far removed from here. In amongst the slate rooftops a splash of blue interrupts the scene, its not new in fact it has been part of the scene for over twenty years. The splash of blue nestling between the rooftops belongs to the air conditioning and ventilation ducting of Centre Pompidou. A later visit to the now legendary product of the union of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers completely changed the course of my studies in architecture, and probably countless others. I approached from the sloping piazza with its huge white, steel air intakes that would not look out of place aboard an ocean liner. There was an artist offering to draw caricatures for 500 Francs or some price that I could not afford at the time, however there were some good sketches of Mick Jagger and David Bowie. The Piazza was otherwise populated by clusters of students much the same as our party, looking, examining, taking photographs. I dont remember exactly which day of the week it was, but there is one day a week that all the Parisian Museums are closed for cleaning, all of them on the same day! Unfortunately the day that we picked to go to Beaubourg, was cleaning day. The fabled escalator tubes that climb diagonally skywards across the East facade were stood dormant; the only people within the tubes were indeed the cleaners. So the 6
  5. 5. T he Beaubourg E xp er imen t Beaubourg! arguably, best experience that Paris has to offer for free was unavailable to the public. The building, Centre de Arts et de Culture de Georges Pompidou that I had understood as the Pompidou Centre or simply Pompidou, was one that I knew was an inside out building to allow for the interior to be arranged freely and re-arranged at will. At the time I had seen the image of the external escalators on the cover of a book, and did not know who the designers were, shame on me! An architecture student on the second year of the BA course. However, a close inspection from ground level. The huge white steel columns, the elaborate system of cross bracing and tension rods, the dramatic, skeletal, highly crafted cantilevers, seemingly supporting the escalators, raised enough interest for me to be reading books and asking questions for a very long time. At the northern end of the piazza, adjacent the entrance to the escalator tube, the concept of supporting great indeterminate floor spaces becomes apparent with the full depth of the building visible, the sheer size of the trusses that span from front to back, 48 metres to be precise. The whole mechanism that holds these beams in place is illustrated immaculately at full scale. The East facade, on the rue de Renard presents a completely different picture from the one of the West facade. The elaborate tangle of ventilation ducts, supply pipes threaded in around the structure. The structural bays almost hidden beneath the services, being defined by the cross bracing, each bay slightly different, air conditioning in one, passenger lifts in another. 7
  6. 6. T he Beaubourg E xp er imen t Beaubourg! The issue of addressing urban context with such a large building is surprisingly very well resolved. At the time of my visit the colours of the external ductwork were not so strident, faded and partially hidden beneath a thick layer of grime and pigeon droppings. But somehow the used look permits it to fit in to the tight grain of Paris as though it had always been there. The clusters of service pipes not too dissimilar in form to the clustered columns that are carved in the Gothic stonework of Notre Dame. But here the forms serve a functional rationale rather than a philosophical one. I began reading around the subject of the design and started to unravel some of the complexities of the forces at play on those active facades. The structure to accommodate change and flexibility to allow for indeterminate floor volumes. The external services able to be repaired, altered, removed and replaced at will without interrupting activities inside the building. Shall we enter? Fig. 1 Fig. 2 8
  7. 7. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg Process Introduction The conversation with Pompidou, the building, not the past President of France, will focus on the process rather than the product in the making of the building that has become synonymous with Georges Pompidou. The investigation into some of the design issues and influences at the time, will create an understanding of some of the reasons for the phenomenal success of Centre Pompidou Chapter 1, Before Beaubourg, looks at Beaubourg in the 1960s, giving an overview of cultural and political events, events that have challenged public opinion and contributed to the climate in which the Beaubourg competition, this chapter gives a profile of the work of the independent members of the design team, and their contemporaries to give a background to the subsequent design process at Beaubourg. Chapter 2, The competition, examines the reason that the competition was launched and outlines the requirements as defined by the project brief. The study looks at the members of the competition jury and some of the entries from fellow competitors, to explain why the Piano and Rogers scheme was the winner. Chapter 3, The Design process, profiles the design Teams reaction to and interpretation of the brief, possible influences are investigated to inform the teams approach to the design problem. Chapter 4, Beaubourg, effective? examines the reality of the built design, looking at how the product of this extraordinary design was received, by the public and critics. 9
  8. 8. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg Process Chapter 5, The Beaubourg Legacy, talks of the subsequent shift in architectural approach, especially to museum design. The chapter also profiles the work of the design team, since the Beaubourg project. The design process is followed through their subsequent projects. The life of Centre Pompidou is profiled over the past twenty years to give an informed view of how the design of the Centre will shape up in the future. The Conclusion, Learning from Beaubourg, looks at Beaubourg as a phenomenon restating its value in the context of youthful experiment. 10
  9. 9. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg Chapter 1 In order to begin to understand the influences shaping architectural theory in the 1960s it is important to study the immediate historical context, in which architects were working. In Europe conditions were particularly harsh following the second world war, as countries started the long, painful process of recovery, it was a time of desperate hardship, rationing and poor health, financially most countries were struggling as a result of the War effort. The construction industry also suffered greatly, there was a material shortage, especially steel, forcing architecture to take on a new direction. The deep felt hardships broadened the distinctions between classes and the monumentalism of architecture was seen as a potent symbol of this bitter class conflict. The issue in particular, of attitudes towards museums represents a recurring aspect of the processes at play in the design of Centre Pompidou. In the 1960s museums were considered as monuments to Fig. 3 three flags. Jasper Johns 1954- old In general they were places that nobody went to, 1955 they were in buildings that were, solid, impenetrable, dreary and dusty, representing esoteric institutions, places built on preserving a sacred mystique as something for the elite. Attitudes that were highlighted by Le Corbusier some four decades earlier in his publication The decorative art of today. In 1925, where observations point to people who go to museums feel that they are a pillar of society. Museums were regarded by the masses as representing old-fashioned 11
  10. 10. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg values held by the upper classes. The very same values that were being opposed by the 1950s modern architecture movement. During 1945 there was a recognised need for architects to combine form giving with complex socially engineered planning schemes, these immense rebuilding programs were being drawn up throughout Europe, following modernist principles, which were regarded as the appropriate style for new social democratic settlement. This accumulation of moral and functional concerns pushed Architects to integrate their approach with experience of new methods and materials that had been gained from tactical necessities of war. This new wave of building was seen to be sweeping away signs of status and sentimentality. Architecture practice was conceived as continuous with other social and scientific discourses. Modernism was ideologically opposed to what was regarded as undemocratic neo-classical grandeurs, embodied in the design of public buildings during the first half of the twentieth century. These new notions of participation, equality and access had determined the new meaning in architecture, whereas seminal modernist buildings, like those of Mies, Gropius and Le Corbusier were known to most students by their monochrome, strongly lit and uninhabited photographs. Where manifestos of modernism had previously been heroic in proposing new ideas, this new modernism gave way to more explanatory and on occasions, patronising addresses to the new citizen. Architects were expected to invest more concerns in sociological issues and to have a better understanding of new materials and building techniques. 12
  11. 11. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg The era of reconstruction planning also saw political changes such as nationalisation, de-colonisation and the installation of welfare states. However, many Architects were working for the local councils where demands on them to deliver new buildings, compromised most designs. Architecture was becoming difficult to consider as a discrete matter between architect and client, this was a time of fundamental change, and never before had the opportunity to build new communities on such a grand scale presented itself. Architects now had a responsibility to the public! The attributes of professional practice that belonged to the pre-war generation was rejected by a new generation of architects, these had been students in the radical contexts of the 1930s and were seeing some of the theories put into practice. In 1957 MARS, the modern architecture research group, was dissolved. A moment when, the intellectual, architects weaned on Vers une architecture gave way to 1. Barry Curtis, 1 Archigram a An angrier generation . Debates on architecture in necessary Irritant, from Concerning 1960s, conceived architecture as being continuous with Archigram, London 1998. social and scientific discourses, to the point of discussing architecture into a hybrid activity. Part of this movement towards producing an alternative kind of Architecture was represented by the works of Alison and Peter Smithson. Peter Smithson was teaching at the Architectural Association, during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960, Richard Rogers graduated. From the AA Finding work with Middlesex County Council, Architects Department, whilst applying for scholarships in the United States. Rogers accepted the invitation to study at Yale University in 1961. It was at Yale University, under supervision of Paul Rudolph, that Rogers joined up with Norman Foster to collaborate on several projects. Whilst in America, Rogers met another 13
  12. 12. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg prominent figure in the 1950s modern movement, James Stirling, and worked briefly for Skidmore Owings and Merrill. It was in America that Richard Rogers discovered the works of Buckminster Fuller, who was already known, for his innovation in design, the Dymaxion house of 1927 and geodesic domes 1959. The work of the American represented a technocratic idealism of efficiency, in 1962 Fuller proposed a giant dome over the whole of mid town Manhattan to act as a smog shield. In Britain major players in the architectural debate were Cedric Price whose Fun Palace and potteries think belt projects provided a new discourse in architecture placing emphasis Fig. 4 Cedric Price on indeterminacy of use and Fun Palace, 1961 construction. In 1961, a new experimental architecture group of Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Michael Webb, began publishing their Architectural Telegram, starting as a broadsheet and becoming a magazine, spawning the group name Archigram. The groups work represents a set of proposals through which to view the New World. The restlessness of the population was seen as the cultural condition, developing a territory in which Archigram could explore new ideas. Archigram is about possibilities in architecture both/and rather than either/or, in a New World where nomadism is a dominant stasis. Consumption, Lifestyle and Transience become the programme for the projects. This conceptual shift was one from interests in commodity, towards interest in protocols, structures and processes in mid twentieth century culture. In this new context of 14
  13. 13. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg consumerism, the work displayed a marked optimism in technology and pure faith in the future. The intention was not to restyle modernism, In an era where panic seemed to be the psychological mood of Post- Modernism, Archigram represents a point of slippage between modern and Post Modern. One of the best known projects, the Plug in city is a total project that is the combination of a series if ideas worked upon between 1962 and 1964. The prototype was the metal cabin housing project of 1962; the progression became the placing of removable house Fig. 5 Peter Cook: Plug- in city elements into a concrete megastructure. As the Maximum Pressure area, 1964. discussions of Archigram 2 and 3 built up arguments in favour of expendable buildings, the further investigation evolved into what would happen if the whole environment could be programmed and structured for change. Aside from the architectural debate, the 1960s were a turbulent decade whose events set part of the contemporary context in which the new generation of architects were working. It was the time of the Cold War and the Space Race, the Vietnam War, political crises concerning The Suez Canal and Cuba, the Profumo sex and spies scandal, the great train robbery and the Kennedy assassination. Events such as Harold Wilsons Scarborough Speech on the white heat of technology, and the world wide student crises and resulting political turmoil, In response to consumer society came Pop Culture. 15
  14. 14. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg Pop art had developed during the late 1950s and into the 1960s with prominent American artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Liechtenstein, and Andy Warhol, probably best known for his mass produced portraits and Campbells Soup can Fig. 6. Marilyn paintings. Diptych, By Andy Richard Hamilton of the RCA published a Pop Art Warhol, 1962, Oil, Acrylic and Manifesto. Describing Pop Art as: designed for a mass silk screened enamel on audience, being concerned with transience and offering canvas. short term solutions, Expendable and easily forgotten, low cost and mass produced, young in that it is aimed at youth, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business. In 1963, California was in the grip of Flower Power and the haze of Marijuana and sitar music of the Hippy movement. In the same year, Richard and Su Rogers returned to London to set up Team 4 architects with Norman Foster, who completed various projects, mainly private houses and two factories, Reliance Controls at Swindon being the best known. Winning the Architectural Design Award in 1966 and the Financial times Award for the most outstanding work of industrial architecture in 1967, Reliance controls was the last project of team 4. This signified a change in direction of the Two partners, inevitably, 1966 saw the break up of Team 4. Fig. 7. Team 4 Reliance Controls, 16 Swindon
  15. 15. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg In 1968 global events forced a major change of direction in culture. In France a crisis developed out of an increasing gulf between French people and its leaders during 1965 and 1967. The people were challenging the basis for reconstruction of post war France. They felt a distinct shortfall between the traditional 18th century values, which structured the organisation of French society, and the realities of growth and consumption, patterns. Unrest took the conventional logical pattern students - society - politics. The student revolts were part of an international movement, particularly in the US, Japan and West Germany. The driving force was the rejection of consumer society and traditional social values. Students were reacting against disparities between industrialised nations and developing countries. It was forced by a Marxist derived critique of oppressive capitalism, environmental destruction and pollution. The Principal student demand was the right to happiness and achievement of liberty and basic needs that they felt were being threatened by Vietnam War. Demonstrators also stormed the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London to protest against the Vietnam War. The French University system was unable to cope with the dramatic increase in student numbers. The students felt were being handled in an adhoc way by government. Numbers of Professors and lectures were extremely inadequate, coupled with the lack of accommodation, demonstrations became widespread leading to riots in Paris, subsequent events led to strikes Fig 8. Whaam! of workers in public and private sectors from the grass Roy Liechtenstein. Acrylic on canvas, roots level - resulting chaos ground France to the halt. 1963 17
  16. 16. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg The events of 1968 Paris represented the most traumatic period in French history since the Second World War. During this period new experimental architecture groups emerged, expressing new ideas to further broaden the parameters of architectural theory. Swiss-French Architecture Bernard Tcshumi was a student at the ETH Zurich in 1965, later comments upon the events of 1968, talking of the need for architecture that might change society, highlighting demands for adaptation of space to the existing social and political structure. He expressed a fascination with the metropolis generating unexpected cultural manifestations, following observations of the misuse of cities, particularly Paris. In his essay The environmental trigger at the AA in 1972 he was asking How could architecture and cities be a trigger for social and economic change? Identifying three possible roles for architects, one, to conserve out historical role as 2. Bernard Tcshumi Architecture and translators of form givers. Two, critics and Disjunction. commentators, intellectuals who reveal the MIT Press 1996 contradictions of society, and thirdly as revolutionaries using environmental knowledge to be part of professional forces trying to arrive at new social and urban structures.2 In Paris were another group, Utopie who were experimenting in the use of inflatable structures. As a tutor at the AA in London Tschumi worked with Superstudio and Archizoom, who were making ironic and critical projects from1969. 18
  17. 17. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg In 1968, three members of the Archigram team moved to the USA, Ron Herron, Warren Chalk and later Peter Cook, to teach at UCLA. Three AA students also moved to Los Angeles to escape the volatile situation that was developing in Europe of 1968, Alan Stanton, Chris Dawson, and Mike Davis. The three, taking the name Crysalis, were being tutored at UCLA by Peter Cook, Ron Herron and Arata Isozaki. One of the major projects of Crysalis was the Myra Breckonridge Dome, a mirrored dome for Osaki Expo 1969. Some of the other experimental groups at the time include Zund-up, Missing Link, 999, Clip-kit, Wolf Prix and Helimuth Swicinsky from Austria, who formed Coop Himmelblau in 1969. The Chrysalis practice joined Piano and Rogers in 1973. The Archigram team returned to London in1969 to set Fig 9. Monte Carlo Entertainments Centre. up an office after winning a competition for an Entertainments centre in Monte Carlo. In Prague, 1968 saw the invasion of Soviet Troops, after two years of Czech independence from Moscow. In the thousands of young people emigrating from Czechoslovakia emerged Architect, Jan Kaplicky who arrived in London, in the September. Although Kaplicky had completed works in private practice whilst in Czechoslovakia work was difficult to find in London, at most interviews, nobody believed that he had built concrete houses and built a lightweight steel entrance ramp. Eventually after working for small practices, 19
  18. 18. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg Kaplicky joined the office of Denys Lasdun in 1969, subsequently working for two years on the National Theatre, on the south bank of the Thames. During this time Kaplicky with fellow émigré Eva Jiricna, entered the competition to design an extension to house the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. The late 1960s saw the completion of important projects by the Richard Rogers office, in particular the Rogers and Spender Houses, and theoretical projects known as Zip up houses. In July 1969 Richard Rogers produced two manifestos explaining the practical and technological bases for their work. The theoretical manifesto talks of expressing need for Architecture to become multi-disciplinary activity placing the architect and student in a position to question whether an object is needed at all. Being able to suggest complete reconsideration of any problem on the part of the client. The practical manifesto sets the precedent of Rogers subsequent work, the points of which are listed below. 1 general purpose to cater for different requirements. 4. Bryan Appleyard. Richard Rogers, 2 maximum flexibility to accommodate change. biography. 3 minimum erection time. 4 high environmental standard. 5 minimum maintenance. 6 minimum number of prefabricated components. 7 dry joints. 8 use maximum spans to give flexibility to partitioning.4 20
  19. 19. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg In 1964 Renzo Piano graduated from Florence Polytechnic and worked mainly in Milan on a number of research projects whilst working for Franco Albini. The research projects, described by Piano as having a utopian element, were looking for absolute space without form, structure without weight, concentrating on lightness, flexibility and ease of construction. The projects include a mobile sulphur extraction plant in 1967, the tunnel enclosure, uses small lightweight modules that can be assemble by hand. In essence, the enclosure crawls along the ground as the operation progresses. The explorations in use of lightweight panels and structure became further refined in the pavilion for the fourteenth Trienalle Expo in Italy, 1967 and the Italian Pavilion for the Osaka Expo of 1969. During this time piano had also worked with Z.S. Fig. 10 Renzo Piano. Malowski in London, developing a knowledge of spatial Detail of Italian Pavilion at Osaka structures, and with Louis Kahn in Philadelphia, on the Expo 1969 Olivetti Underwood factory, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Renzo Piano contacted Richard Rogers expressing admiration for his work, pointing out similarities in directions with his own work, frequent meetings possibility of their collaboration. The practice of Renzo Piano joined forces with John Young, Marco Goldschmied and Richard Rogers in 1970. The new practice became a virtuoso performer employing an alternative approach to Architecture building up a stylistic repertoire using radical materials. Technological and practical considerations were based upon elements of the designs of Buckminster Fuller, expressing ideals of a world saved, by using efficiency of new design and materials. 21
  20. 20. T he BeaubourgExperiment Be fo re Be aub ou rg In the January of 1971 Piano and Rogers entered competition for museum housing Burrell collection in Glasgow, their entry was unplaced but provided an important platform to exhibit their Sophisticated awareness of building and manufacturing processes. - Piano and the Expressive powers and beauty of steel. - Rogers. In the march of 1971 Kaplicky joined Richard and Su Rogers, John Young and Marco Goldschmied, to become Job Architect for a project for a penthouse office suite for Design Research Unit at Aybrook Street in London. The engineers Ove Arup and Partners had recently achieved international recognition for being the engineers on the hugely controversial Jorn Utzons Sydney Opera House. It was Ted Happold contacted Fig 11. Sydney Opera House. Jorn Rogers expressing an interest in collaborating with the Utzon with Ove Arup and Partners. Practice on a building competition in Paris. 22
  21. 21. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n Chapter 2 Situated in the historic centre of Paris Plateau Beaubourg is within a kilometre of Notre Dame and the Louvre, and is on the edge of the densely populated Marais Quarter. Les Halles, built by Victor Baltard, under the direction of the great rebuilder of Paris, Baron Haussmann, in 1853, being built in iron and glass, was one of the worlds greatest markets being a popular focus for activity. The market was no longer large enough to supply the whole of France, plans to redevelop the site Fig 12. Les Halles had been considered since before the Second World War, where a project had been initiated but subsequently abandoned. Centre National d Art et de Culture (CNAC) resulted from an entirely different project, in which the entire area was to be developed, in 1967 plans were drawn up in which Les Halles would be demolished to partly to make way for a new metro line beneath the market. A small number of French architects submitted designs that included a new Museum of Modern Art, a new business centre, a new building for the Ministry of Finance, with offices, hotels, dwellings, in short a whole new a commercial centre and public transport interchange. 23
  22. 22. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n At that time, the Beaubourg plateau was being used a truck park for Les Halles, it had been one of the most densely packed quarters of Paris which was cleared of slum housing in the 1930s due to its high levels of prostitution and tuberculosis. The first firm decision that anything would be built on the site was taken in 1968, when it was announced that a new library be built on the Beaubourg Plateau. In the discussions about the future of Les Halles the markets were to be moved out of the city centre to the suburb of Rungis, the debates drew attention the whole Marais district. When political events intervened, Georges Pompidou succeeded Charles De Gaulle as President 1969. Continuing in the tradition of his Royal predecessors, to spent vast sums of public money on ambitious building projects. Georges Pompidou adopted the earlier scheme to build a library at Beaubourg, proposed under the De Gaulle Government, but combining it with the idea of including a Museum of Modern Art to replace the Pallais de Challiot which had a magnificent collection but only attracted small numbers of visitors, due to its inadequate facilities. The project was initially commissioned by the Ministry of culture, Pompidou became the driving force, who with his wife were great admirers of modern art and decided from the outset that the Ministry of culture was not to run the project, to avoid restriction by existing thinking on arts centres. He set up a team to produce a brief for an international competition. Pompidous aim was for millions of people to know his name; Pompidou wanted the best in the world for the glorification of Paris. 24
  23. 23. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n In 1970 the brief was set for the provision of a Cultural Centre, that was to comprise four main specialist activities. Including a Museum of Modern Art; a reference library; a centre for industrial design and a centre for music and acoustic research. The centre also required supporting services including a car park and restaurant. The building area totalling 1 million square feet. The brief mentioned the general notion of an information centre, placing emphasis on making the place active all day, the idea being to avoid the deadness that afflicts arts palaces during the day, expressing the notion of flexibility. Pompidou assembled a jury led by Jean Prouve, innovative French Engineer. Philip Johnson, virtuoso New York Architect, who had worked alongside Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on the Seagram Building, whose approach to post modern architecture delivered the A, T & T Building, also in New York. Oscar Niemeyer an internationally renowned Architect, best known for his designs for the Government Buildings of Brasilia between 1956 and 1963. Aillaud, largely unknown French architect. Michel Laclotte, curator of paintings at the Louvre. Gaetan Picon, French writer. Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect of the world famous the Sydney Opera House. Herman Liebaers, director of the Royal Library of Belgium. Sir Dick Francis, former curator of the British Museum. Willi Sandberg, a Dutch Museum curator who had been a major influence in contemporary thinking about museum design. 25
  24. 24. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n The selection process involved 681 entries from architects from fifty countries. Architects initially limited themselves to the design of a new museum but not along traditional lines. There were ideas about breaking through the imposing facade to present to the man in the street. This would be a monument to Pompidou in the centre of old Paris therefore the issue of context would play a key role on the design process. Fig 13. Competition entries Manfred Schiedhelm proposed a transparent dome covering entire plateau. The scheme received an honourable mention. The Dennis Crompton and Will Alsop proposal uses partial underground structure. Some elements of the design are not too dissimilar to Archigrams competition winning design for an Entertainments centre at Monte Carlo. The Scheme received an honourable mention. Moshe Safdie whose proposal covered the entire site with underground areas, beneath a stepped overhanging structure. 26
  25. 25. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n Charles Vandenhove whose proposal was to cover the entire site with a megastructure following neo-miesian grid. Minoru Takeyama whose scheme involved placing most of the structure underground to leave a greater area open to the public. Jan Hoogstad whose brutalist, proposal covered most of the site, allowing for some degree of public space much in the manner of Alvar Aalto. J.L.C. Choisey, R. Quendag, G. Martens proposed to cover the entire site with a modernist megastructure. 27
  26. 26. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he C om pe t i t io n The design of Piano and Rogers demonstrates a departure from the approaches in design of the other entries. Illustrating a clear understanding of the urbanity of such a project. Where many designers sought to cover the whole site, the winning entry leaves half of the site clear to allow the city to breathe, replacing some of the open space that would be lost with the departure of Les Halles. 28
  27. 27. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess The Eiffel tower has been accepted as architecture. 1. Le Corbusier, The decorative art of today. In 1889 it was seen as the aggressive expression of mathematical calculation. In 1900 the Aesthetes wanted to demolish it. In 1925 it dominated the exhibition of modern decorative arts. Above the plaster palaces writhing with decoration. It stood out pure as crystal. Le Corbusier.1 As the design team considered the competition, Richard Rogers was violently opposed to the idea of entering, he saw the project as one of wasteful flamboyance and grand gesture. For Rogers the idea of a cultural centre with its elitist overtones conflicted with the principles that defined his work. In France, the fact that the government had played such a central role in the wars with students during the May of 1968, Rogers felt a deep mistrust of the very word culture, and the notion that it was to be accommodated in a national arts centre, a cultural monument to one man, compounded his reluctance. The image of French riot police was a consistent element of hate iconography of the late 1960s. Even as late as 1971 the image of armed police on the streets overwhelmed the Piano and Rogers team. Rogers believed that feelings within besides the British Architectural profession, that the competition was one of a forum for architectural ideas rather than a serious building were held by those who had misread the situation, this was a live project which was going to be built! This was the Presidents pet project; it was felt that the usual beaurocracies such as the Ministry of Culture, 29
  28. 28. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess whose involvement could normally scupper such a project, had been bypassed, by the presidents direct involvement. It was widely held that no nation other than France could win. Renzo Piano was in favour of entering on the basis that the practice had no work and stood to lose nothing. Eventually Su Rogers agreed with Pianos stance and Richard Rogers was out voted by Su, Piano and Happold; so the team agreed to enter, the project was financed by Arups to the tune of £300. A colleague of Renzo Piano, Giancarlo Franchini joined the practice from Genoa to assist in the production of competition drawings. As the team began to discuss the design of Beaubourg, Rogers initial concerns subsided as the design team conceptually changed the brief to suit their own preoccupations. From an early stage Piano and Rogers assembled a team to investigate ways of giving the centre a wider mix of activities, a deliberate subversion of the brief the idea of a cultural centre replaced by Live 2. Brian Appleyard. 2 Richard Rogers, centre for information and entertainment. Aim to Biography. produce a flexible container that would become a dynamic communications machine made using prefabricated components. The objective to attract a wide a public as possible, cutting across traditional institutional limits, making a peoples centre, a university of the street, becoming an urban landmark, a replacement for the missing Agora. The new centre would be a high-tech Agora, a special place within the city, part of the public domain. Here the term High-tech refers to the medium of communication rather than the architecture. 30
  29. 29. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess The design approach signified a change of emphasis that would combine elements of Times Square and the British Museum. The design cultivated the public square by sinking the building into the ground and occupying only half of the site area. 3. From the Design In our eyes the square was as important as the building. In a Brief, as cited by Deyan Sudjic, in The city as dense as Paris, we thought it was important not to Architecture of Richard occupy the whole of the site. 3 Rogers. It was to be a place wholly devoted to spectacle, a place where people would, look, meet, talk, eat, drink and shop, pushing the museum towards becoming a public space. On a building enclosing 1 million square feet, the size of Harrods, transparency and permeability became major design issues. In response to the museum becoming the Antithesis of 1960s culture. The Underpinning Approach to the design was the conviction that traditional museum was no longer relevant. Where initially Rogers felt that the competition brief represented bad faith that opposed Fullerian values of efficiency and flexibility, the design brief was to produce a building that was rigorously worked out with Flexibility becoming a central design element. The initial design issues providing maximum flexibility were answered by proposing 150feet 48 metre clear span movable floors, at the time of entering the team had no idea of how this was to be achieved, and the main floors remain static in the completed building. 31
  30. 30. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess Technology was seen by Richard Rogers as not being an end in itself but must aim at saving long term social and ecological problems. The design pays a clearly acknowledged debt to Archigram and Cedric Prices fun palace project of 1961, the fusion of seductive imagery of Archigram and Victorian engineering. Combining visual bravura with structural pragmatism. For Piano and Rogers the roots of modernism were in the Fabrications of Joseph Paxton at Londons Crystal palace in 1851; and with Dutertss Gallerie des machines, built for the Paris exhibition of 1889 these early steel structures emphasised tension at every point, evoking movement rather than stasis, they were Live Buildings. By being simple spatial enclosures Fig. 14 Gallerie de producing vast rectangular internal areas that could be Machines, 1889. filled with appropriate activities, these spaces could be changed without the need for further architectural modification. In contrast most modernist buildings highly planned and deterministic, whereas in the 1960s the ethic was of indeterminacy. Modern architecture with its pursuit of pure forms, the architects were forgetting a key attribute of the city, its messy changeability. As buildings became more pure, the street life became less so. At Beaubourg, the design brief submitted by Piano and Rogers talked of the need for buildings to possess the ability to change, especially as institutions often change more quickly than the buildings built to accommodate them. The ability for a building to change was considered to be a vital design issue, being able to change in its plan, section and elevation. This was seen to be instrumental in allowing people the freedom to do their own things, the buildings expressive construction detailing, along with the order and scale, would create a 32
  31. 31. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess clear understanding of the process of building and how it could be used. Each individual component was optimised being, carefully designed to express the forces at play on the building, whilst achieving the maximum efficiency in position and during the manufacturing processes. The structure regarded by the Engineers Ted Happold and Peter Rice, as being a flexible framework rather than traditional building. The design of each individual component, from its storage, transportation, erection and connection, were all carefully considered, and in the completed building would be expressed within a clearly defined and notional framework. The framework was conceived as one that should allow for performance to take place inside and out, so blurring the boundaries between within and without, turning its back on the traditional idea of the museum. 4. Richard Rogers as The new building was communicated as being a free quoted in The architecture of and changing performance which would clearly express Richard Rogers, Deyan Sudjic. the architecture of the building, a giant Meccano set rather than a traditional static transparent or solid dolls house.4 It was anticipated that the new centre would naturally focus attention and excitement within the ancient city quarter, allowing for interaction between all members of the public, free of class distinction, free of national and regional differences. It was intended that dynamic forces of public participation, the provision of an event, would revitalise the entire quarter of the city. The design organisation made four major zones, the environment and the square, the superstructure, the sub structure and IRCAM, which is situated, beneath ground. 33
  32. 32. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess The sub-structure at street level contains a forum, theatre, cinema, shops, reception, cafe, childrens area and exhibition areas. Bus and car arrival areas are situated beneath the public square. In the competition design, external video screens were to cover the building with constantly updated moving images, these were omitted for fears of political agitation although the fixings are in place on the completed building. Renzo Piano talks of the concepts of culture at the start of the seventies, taking different directions, there was the traditional view of culture in an institutional, esoteric, or even intimidating context; or of culture that was spontaneous, unofficial and informal. The team opted for the latter being that they wanted to produce a way of concentrating unofficial culture, in a place that is entirely open to the public. The proposal was that this would be achieved by the design of the building by accommodating the movement of people on the outside of the building, in the suspended glass elevator tubes. 5 & 6. Renzo Piano. The transparency dominating the urban panorama, creating a spectacle in itself, the idea being that nothing the Renzo Piano Logbook. is rigid, the container is flexible, being adaptable through soft mechanisms. 5 The place that is open to change integrates many functions as opposed to segregating them. Renzo Piano describes the building as a diagram which people can read in a flash, by seeing the way that people get around, using the exposed lifts and escalators. 34
  33. 33. T he BeaubourgExperiment T he d es ign proc ess The centre acting as a magnet, to draw the crowds into that part of Paris addresses the issue of urban context, it acts as a catalyst reactivating a relationship with the surrounding area. The streets and building form a homogenous space: they penetrate and shape each other.6 Fig. 15. Competition Drawing 35
  34. 34. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? Chapter 4. Sometimes the use to which the construction is put 1. Renzo Piano, commenting on the finished surprises its creator, and sometimes the creator is to building in the Renzo Piano Logbook. incorporate this into future projects. In practice as well as in theory, the process of construction is always in movement, "Never finished." 1 The events of 1968 highlighted the individuals need of development, education and cultural expression; President Georges Pompidou translated these needs into the need for a bond between knowledge of the arts and democracy. Centre Pompidou was completed within the time frame and within budget. The process of getting the Centre built was a difficult one; there were several attacks on scheme during construction. Six lawsuits were brought against the scheme to try to prevent it being built for various reasons. Steelwork had to be brought in from Germany almost in secrecy; its quite difficult to hide a Fig. 16 48m steel truss in the centre of Paris! As with many ambitious projects, certain elements of the design process become omitted or designed out as other factors begin to influence the design. At the time of entering a competition it is extremely difficulty to summarise any design process into a few pages in which to sell an idea. The major influence was that the project instigator, Georges Pompidou died in 1974. His successor Giscard d Estang, called in the project along with Les Halles. As a result Arups produced a lengthy report to show that eighty percent of the construction cost had already been committed in the project. Giscard did not pull the 36
  35. 35. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? plug on the Centre, but demanded that certain elements be cut from the scheme. The building was reduced in height by one storey, the Institute de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique Musique, (IRCAM) was reduced in size significantly. Where in the original scheme, it would be accommodated in the main building; it was sunk beneath the piazza, adjacent the Centre. As a result, the completed Centre Pompidou is not quite the open ended structure that Piano and Rogers had planned, its permeability impaired by fire regulations and the cuts that Giscard had demanded. However, many of the original design Fig. 17 features have survived the building programme to be IRCAM Piazza. part of the finished building. The built product is the third version of the design, it is pretty much the Live centre of information2 as stated in the competition entry, with 2. Piano & Rogers, the exception of electronic signage systems. Giant Competition Entry, as quoted By Bryan screens were proposed that would cover the west Appleyard in Richard Rogers Biography. facade of the building, to address the piazza with constantly updated moving images, these were shown in the competition winning design and have even made it through to the final design model. Unfortunately these proved to be too much for the Parisian authorities, which feared that the screens would be used for political agitation. However, the fixings for these devices are in place on the finished building should the authorities have a change of heart. Centre Pompidou represents to a degree a form of civic 3. Richard Rogers. disobedience, an exploration of the concept of the Cities for a small 3 planet. adaptable, pluralist institution, and in many ways makes a deliberate taunt aimed at conservatism usually associated with such institutions. It challenges 37
  36. 36. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? 4. Renzo Piano. convention, it communicates a refusal to inflict Renzo Piano logbook. institutional kind of building on the heart of Paris, a city already over burdened with memories. 4 The Centre has been likened to being obviously a 5. Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture, a realisation of the technological and infrastructural critical history. 5 rhetoric of Archigram, The Pompidou centre is 6 Archigrams Plug-in city. referring to its exposed 6. Charles Jencks, Modern Movements structure and mechanical equipment. However, leading in Architecture. Archigram member, Peter Cook comments on these comparisons, talking of his proposal for a plug-in city. You plug it in, pull it out, bits of it come and go. So it can be said to involve metamorphosis, though the basic 7. Peter Cook, structure is on along stay cycle and the capsules on a Six Conversations. short stay cycle. 7 Making the clear distinction between Pompidou and the Plug-in city. Although the image of the Centre does capture some of the mood as expressed in Archigram drawings. The construction of Centre Pompidou was conceived as a kit of parts that could be assembled in various ways. Referred to as a high-tech prototype, in view of its aesthetic seemingly derived from technical structure, to see it as high-tech is misunderstanding8 the design. Fig. 18 Centre Pompidou is certainly a machine, that flaunts brightly coloured metal and transparent tubing, represents the fulfilment of an urban symbolic function 8. Renzo Piano The Renzo Piano rather than a technological one. The technological Logbook. function could have been equally effective, using a concrete structure; the services could have been concealed behind a cladding system, presenting a formal facade to the street scene. 38
  37. 37. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? 9. Richard Rogers. The building was conceived not as a monument but as Cities for a small planet. a peoples place where different ages, interests and cultures can come together.9 Centre Pompidou is essentially place, of meeting and contact, the layered facade giving a sense of permeability, placing the exhibits on show, the scale of the building being defined by the articulation of its parts rather than its mass. 10. Renzo Piano. The designers fiercely defended the four and a half Renzo piano logbook. hectares of pedestrian space at street level. It only makes sense to build a transatlantic liner of this kind if it places art at the social life of the city. 10 There is a need for the Centre to be located in the city centre, it was seen as essential that the new building created of relationship with its context, a one hundred thousand square building could never be made to fit in. Such prominent features as the Escalator tube, extending the Piazza up the face of the building, represents a game played with technology. Whilst riding Fig. 19 on the escalator you can be inside and outside the building at the same time. Renzo Piano talks of the program, being highly innovative and open, a program requiring a radical response. The approach to the design makes a double provocation, firstly it is a challenge to academicism, and secondly it is intended as a parody of technological imagery of the time. It represents the exact opposite of technological model of an industrial city. It represents a Medieval village of 25,000 people, who visit the centre every day to experience the various events that the Centre accommodates. The only difference is it extends upward, the streets follow a vertical layout rather than the traditional horizontal one. 39
  38. 38. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? The Centre has received a steady flow of visitors ever since its opening. Initially expecting numbers between five and ten thousand per day, the reality is that the centre has been attracting a steady twenty to twenty five thousand in a day. The Centre Pompidou in the anti authoritarian manner typical of its time rejects any such structuring that the traditional institution would place on a museum, offering huge open interiors free of interruptions. A container, offering the users the opportunity to alter the spaces dramatically and unpredictably, without compromising the coherence of the whole. The interior of the centre represents the design approach, of indeterminacy and Fig. 20 optimum flexibility. A problem encountered by the museum of Modern Art was that it quickly possessed too many works of art to display on the movable partitions that the scheme provided, in any case it felt that the movable partitions were not doing the works any justice. In order to provide additional wall space, designers Gae Audlenti were commissioned in 1983 to practically insert a building within the building, to provide a more permanent display space for the museum of Modern Art in a setting which is closer to the more conventional gallery. Externally the layering of the facade sets up a dialogue between the building and the Piazza. The Piazza is conceived as a mediating space, setting up two dialogues, one between Beaubourg and the quarter, the other between official and street culture. In many ways the Piazza has become the focus of human activity that the designers intended, it is a performance space, which has improved conditions around the entire quarter. Some argue that life around the centre and in the piazza is mean and oppressive, the cafes are 40
  39. 39. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? expensive, visitors are said to complain of hustling from beggars, and the Centre is shunned by the natives of the city, who complain not of street culture as such, in the case of fire eaters and mime artists, but take objection to what they refer to as endless noise of street people miming to ghetto blasters and psychotic heavy metal guitarists plugged into amplifiers. This does however, represent street Fig. 21 The Piazza. entertainment of the 1990s, probably typical of any westernised city. I have certainly noticed this to be the case in London, New York, Birmingham and Frankfurt. 11. Renzo Piano. Those who perform in the square have interpreted its Renzo Piano Logbook. meaning correctly: The square is a location for art that is not formal, not institutional. 11 There are discussions centring on whether the piazza should be privatised to control the bad behaviour, but this is surely a move that would undermine one of the original concepts of the place. The entire Centre was designed to be open to the public, and this bad behaviour is no different from activities in public spaces, 12. Richard taking Londons Trafalgar Square for instance. Once Rogers, Cities for a small the heart of the Empire, now a polluted tourist trap planet. encircled by traffic. Isolated from the public life of the 12 city. Fortunately this is a mere discussion point at the moment. Although it is said that the days of youths lounging around a rucksacks is now gone. The escalators are to be a ticket only affair, in a move that undermines the principles of the escalators being there. 41
  40. 40. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? 13. Reyner Banham , Reyner Banham introduces Centre Pompidou as the Architecture Review, February 1977. apotheosis of Archigram and of the megastructure 13 14. Kenneth Frampton idea. Kenneth Frampton refers to the Pompidou Modern Architecture a critical History. Centre as emulating an oil refinery14, Massino Dini describes it as a ship in Paris.15 During the past twenty 15. Charles Jencks. Modern Movements in years the centre has come under attack from countless Architecture. critics, attacks that are inevitable with such a radical building, reflective of the Eiffel tower had been received in the previous century. Most of the negative criticism can be summarised up by the French Philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, in his essay The Beaubourg Effect, implosion and deterrence, (1984) presents Pompidou as a Fig. 22 confused cultural object devouring cultural energy like Rue Renard Facade the Black monolith of 2001. 16 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Puzzle of carcass of signs of flux, of networks and circuits... the ultimate gesture toward translation of an Jean Baudrillard, The Beaubourg Effect, unnameable structure: that of social relations consigned implosion and deterrence as published to a system of surface ventilation (animation, self- in Rethinking regulation, information, media) and an in-depth, Architecture, Neal 17 Leach. (ed) irreversible implosion. The centre houses some of the most powerful works of twentieth century art in the world. Popular opinion is that the image of the building is detracting from the exhibits inside. The same criticism could be made of Frank Lloyd Wrights Guggenhiem Museum in New York where the huge concrete spiral ramp is a piece of sculpture in itself, however the visitor will only pay to visit the art collection if it is something that they wish to see. 42
  41. 41. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? Such criticisms do raise the question of how well the Centre is accommodating its function, whether it is perceived as an art gallery or a museum, obviously it is much more than this. By the Corbusian definition as outlined in the 1925 publication, The decorative art of Today the centre being the dynamic container that it is goes further towards representing contemporary society than say the British Museum. Le Corbusiers point was that the museum takes objects out of context and is therefore bad, if the museum could reveal the full story it would be good. At Beaubourg, the museum defines its own context, it is an event in itself the event tells us something of the way that the public regard culture. 18. Renzo Piano Beaubourg not created just to present culture, but to Renzo Piano produce it - Utopian vision may not be attainable but is Logbook. worthy striving for! 18 Baudrillard talks of contradictions expressed within the centre - fluid communicative exterior - cool and modern 19 - interior uptight with old values . However Centre Pompidou was extremely innovative for its time, and the possibility that the centre could be run to be more rigid Fig. 23 than the designers allowed is quite real. Maybe the people responsible for the running of the Centre are still treating the centre as though it is the Louvre or the British museum, for example not yet ready to accept the communications revolution. It is worth remembering that Jean Baudrillards Essay was written in 1984, when todays communications revolution was still more science fiction than an actual reality. Describing the centre as a Space of deterrence, ideology of visibility, transparency, polyvalence, concensus20 certainly reflects the way that the centre is being run rather than 43
  42. 42. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? its actual design, and one thing the design is to allow for is for the institution to change within its framework. Certainly the insertions of Gae Audlenti in 1986 to make the museum of modern art more like the traditional art gallery make little sense in the overall scheme of things. As they have in effect frozen the entire floor. 21 Culture itself is dead. reflects the fact that traditional culture has changed with the times, it is true that many young people have no interest in classical art or music. Considering that the design emerged out of the decade of Pop Culture the notion that culture is dead is unrealistic, it would be more realistic to say that culture has changed and the Centre assists the change and Fig. 24. diversity of culture by providing a stage, a backdrop for people. A paradox of the Centre is fact that at the outset Richard Rogers loathed the idea of a cultural monument dedicated to one Man, insisting that the centre be referred to as Beaubourg, but since Pompidou died before the centres completion, the name Centre Pompidou has stuck. This coupled with the powerful image of the building the Centre has inevitably become a monument, an icon. The exterior, deliberately turning its back on the traditional idea of a museum, has shaped the way that museums have evolved during the past twenty years, Jean Nouvelles Arab Institute also in Paris, flaunts the use of technology to control the internal environment, and has roof terraces, and cafes. The building goes some way towards making a public spectacle, much in the same way as Pompidou. Norman Fosters Sainsbury Centre, at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, for example demonstrates the loose fit and 44
  43. 43. T he Beaubourg e xp er imen t Be aub ou rg e ffec tive ? long life approach. At Centre Pompidou, for the first time a museum did not resemble a temple it looked far more comfortable along side of engineering structures, a fitting progression from the Eiffel Tower or Duterts Gallerie des Machines. 21. Deyan Sudjic There are those who argue that the philosophy of The architecture of Richard Pompidou represents not Architecture at all. 21 Rogers. For me Pompidou does represent architecture but far beyond the context of object buildings. Yes the centre Pompidou is an Icon, a huge object, but also represents the change in direction that Architecture had taken at that time and the subsequent movements that have followed. The design process that delivered the building in the state that is evident on the Plateau Beaubourg is clearly expressed in the rigorous attention to detail. The impression of changeability, the visual flexibility, in that when we as the public view such an artefact, such an Fig. 25 icon, we immediately question the appearance, and some of us try to understand how it has arrived at that appearance. 22. Massimo Dini. The whole story of Beaubourg was like a long voyage to Renzo Piano, the sources of architectural creation, with occasional forays Buildings and Projects 1964- into a computerised future. Then finally the great ship 1983. reached port, safely within the deadlines and cost margins of the contract. Today you can see it, anchored in the ancient centre of Paris, ready to sail off once more in defiance of imitators and culture beaurocrats. It is a symbol, even more than that, it is alive! 22 45

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