Born in 1937, the Italian Architect
was interested in architecture at
an early age. He graduated from
the University of Florence in 1964,
followed by Milan Polytechnic.
Piano was inspired by two people
in his profession during his lifetime,
Jean Prouve and Franco Albini.
These two men were his mentors
during his 35 year successful
career. Piano started working as an
Architect independently, then was
afﬁliated with Richard Rogers
before opening his ﬁnal ﬁrm with
fellow architect Peter Rice in 1980.
Centre Georges Pompidou
An active and accessible machine
in which the arts could interact with
each other and all social strata.1
Centre Georges Pompidou opened in 1978 centered in the heart
of Paris s historical center. The building stands as a form
which houses various functions. Within the structure is an Art
Museum, a library, a design center, and also a music center. The bold
architectural style used by Piano and Rogers contrasts with the historic
buildings in the crowded area of downtown Paris. President Pompidou
proposed a building in 1969 for this former site of Les Halles.
This cultural center stands six stories tall and rises above the other
buildings in close proximity. One prominent design feature of the site
is the large open area in front of Centre Georges Pompidou. Piano used
incorporated this feature in his design to include a place for visitors and
the Parisians to enjoy the beauty of the building. The space is similar
to the Italian idea of a “piazza”.
1 Buchanan p.26
Piano s idea sketch1
Themes of the design2:
Flexible envelope Steel Structure
Simple Geometric Form Exterior Mechanical
Open Piazza Building Circulation
Occupancy zoned(connection with Paris)
1 Piano p. 41: 2 Silver p.31
1 Piano p.41: 2 Piano p.41
Typical Floor Plan2
1 Piano p.40: 2 Piano p.40
Design Competition Winners: Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers
Construction Time: 7 years (1971-1978)
Location: Paris France (Beaubourg)
Structure: Steel and Concrete Slabs
Floor Area1: 65,000 m2
Cost2: $363,858,691(over budget by 11.7%)
Height: 45.5 meters
1 Silver p. 23: 2 Silver p. 170
Cast Steel Columns
Exterior Steel Bracing
Concrete Floor Panels
Steel is the only permanent element of structure.
The 850 mm steel columns surrounding the exterior
of the concrete cast ﬂoor plates to create part of the
industrial looking exoskeleton
which can carry 3000 tons of
vertical force. The steel X-
bracing controls the lateral
forces applied to the structure
and enable the exterior to have
thermal movement because of
the hinge connections. The
columns create 13 visual bays
which brace and support the
mechanical systems. One
example is pictured on the left,
the circulation in clear shafts 1.
1 Piano p.45
The exterior steel bracing
consists of cross bracing
and horizontal bracing.
Post tensioning was used
to ensure that the 60 mm steel
rods stayed in place when
attached to the steel columns
and concrete ﬂoor beams.
The horizontal bracing connects
the exterior cross-bracing to
the columns. This part of the
Diagram showing structure stabilizes the columns
the relationship between
each steel structural member. from vertical buckling forces.
This occurs at the entry level
then every other ﬂoor until
the top of the building.
Diagram of Gerberette and truss connection1
The Gerberettes are the cantilevered arms that connect
the steel columns to the 157 foot long and 3 feet deep
trusses which enable the concrete ﬂoor slabs to be column
free. These gerberettes are needed to make sure the loads
from the six ﬂoors of the building are transferred down the
center axis of each column to prevent bending moments2.
1 Sandaker and Eggen p. 68: 2 Sandaker and Eggen p. 666
Diagram showing the points of pressure and the tension and compression forces1
Steel trusses are beneﬁcial in this construction because
of their ability to withstand tension and compression forces.
During this construction the workers realized that the
size and weight of each truss was almost too large for the span
length. These trusses act as deep horizontal beams which
pass the shear forces to the corners and then down to the ground.
The trusses are placed together using pin connections.
There are two advantages of this construction type:
1. The material was placed exactly where needed
2. The webbed steel makes the building feel light and airy2
1 Sandaker and Eggen p. 68: 2 Sandaker and Eggen p. 68
Centre Georges Pompidou
A Triumphant Crystallization
of the national cultural spirit.2
1 Image-Piano p. 45: 2 Silver p. 1
Buchanan, Peter. Renzo Piano Building Workshop. London;
Phaidon Press Limited, 2000.
Piano, Renzo. Renzo Piano: Logbook. Paris; The Monicelli
Sandaker and Eggen. The Structural Basis of Architecture.
NY; Sandaker and Eggen, 1992.
Silver, Nathan. The Making of Beaubourg. London; The
MIT Press, 1994.