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Centre Pompidou, Paris

The Centre Pompidou was opened in January l 977, and gained immediate fame as the most
radical modern building in Paris or, indeed, anywhere. It remains the most visited and
controversial tourist attraction in the city. And not only tourists come: it provides Parisians with
libraries, study and research facilities along with the exhibitions and views that draw the crowds.
The original concept was a cross between Times Square in New York and the British Museum:
an information centre with the emphasis on people and participation. As any visitor on any day
can see, that concept is magnificently realised. Fire eaters, jugglers and crowds of spectators in
the piazza; exhibition goers, library users and sightseers everywhere inside. Whether you like the
building or hate it, the designers succeeded in what they set out to do.
The story of the design began in I 9 71 with an architectural competition for a cultural centre in
the heart of Paris. Peter Rice and Ted Happold of Ove Arup & Partners wanted to enter, they
invited the architects Richard and Su Rogers to join them, and then Rogers brought in Renzo
Piano. They held a series of meetings to decide whether to enter, and then realised that the
meetings were spent defining the solution so they (and 680 others) entered the competition
and won.

The building is most simply described as six enormous floors, l 68m X 48m, uninterrupted by
any of the normal permanent obstructions of stairs, columns, plumbing stacks or ventilation
shafts. The floors can be divided up or not as the needs of the event or the occupier demand,
allowing an almost infinite range of possible uses. The flexibility in use is achieved by long
structural spans and by locating all the vertical circulation, toilets and mechanical seNices on the
outside edges - indeed, outside the building enclosure itself. The structural elements, which give
the building so much of its character, are the tubular trusses that span the width of the floors
and the cast steel hinged cantilevers (known as "gerberettes") that support the trusses and are
themselves supported by tubular columns and tied down by other steel tubes; the entire
structure is braced by steel rods.
The Centre Pompidou is a case study in innovation: it was the first utterly explicit architectural
statement of the structural, mechanical and circulation systems of a building, and seNed as a
prototype for many works that followed . The innovation extended to almost every aspect of the
building structure: cast steel had never before been used in this way, the fire protection and
construction systems went beyond previous experience, extensive research and testing was
needed to verify assumptions and calculations. The building marked a turning point in Peter
Rice's career, not only bringing him and his fellow designers into international prominence, but
also giving him his first large scale opportunity to explore new materials (or new applications of
old materials) - one of the themes that preoccupied him for the remainder of his career.

the project being seen as an opportunity to revitalise parts of the harbour front area which had fallen into decay over recent years. Renzo Piano. to explore materials and form. Here. \ . himself Genoese. II Grande Bigo neatly and joyfully captures the spirit of the revitalised port and. not surprisingly. mobiles by the Japanese sculptor Shinju. while the Spanish decided to mark the 500th anniversary of his discovery of America with Expo '92 at Seville. Italy's most important port since medieval times. Both sets are anchored down to foundations beneath the harbour water. with their colleagues. while the other set carries a vertical cable-car passenger lift from the quayside. One set of booms supports the tent roof over a harbour pier. suspended from the tips of a pair of booms through sets of cables fanning out from a node at the end of the boom. was adopted for the structure. but the more celebratory spirit of Genoa allowed a freer approach. innovation has given place to ingenuity. although one which still respects the inherent properties of the materials. II Grande Bigo is another example of Peter Rice and Renzo Piano working. Again. The tent roof is supported from four tubular section arches which are. was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and. The eventual design consisted essentially of two independent sets of cable linked. animating the scene. Bigo. has already become a well known Genoa landmark. in turn. Piano's scheme involved the renovation of some old warehouses and a new aquarium but as a thematic centrepiece. was chosen to design the buildings in the heart of the old port. it would support both the fabric membrane roof over a public piazza and an elevator ride to provide panoramic views of the City. the Genoese themselves chose to celebrate it with a slightly more modest exposition dedicated to the sea. covering the piazza. he wanted to build a large structure which would recall a ship's crane. kite-like. for which Peter Rice and Ove Arup & Partners were to be collaborating design engineers. With the nine wind-driven. cigar-shaped booms fanning out from a small island podium located in the dock water itself. a fabric canopy is used to provide shade and shelter. with carefully devised mechanisms such as the rocking frames and pantographs that equalise loads and adjust geometries as these change under changing wind loads. The old Genoese word for a ships crane.DD £J a 0 "II Grande Bigo" Genoa Genoa.

Menil Collection. The development of the design continued the collaboration between Peter Rice and Renzo Piano that had started with the Centre Pompidou. It represents the way in which Peter Rice liked to work and the way in which he worked best. Nodal clamp systems and methods of assembly were developed to produce truss elements with a texture and shape consistent with the ferro-cement leaves. a computer programme was written to examine variations in lighting conditions with different baffle configurations and under different external conditions. everyone contributed to the quality of the building. of forming it to the correct shapes. at the same time. impregnated with a cement rich mortar. ductile iron roof trusses. Texas This building for the storage and display of the Menil Collection of Art and Historic Artefacts is unlike almost every other recent art gallery: the client wanted the exhibits to be seen by natural light coming predominantly from above and reflecting any change in the weather and time of day. Rice and Piano had been experimenting with ferro-cement 1and liked it and the plastic forms it offered. From these studies. and the spaces themselves protected from excessive solar heat gain. No testing was required for 'the ductile cast iron. . with the same fundamental objectives and methods of working that had formed the basis of their close professional relationship during the previous ten years. engineers or the manufacturers were built as prototypes and tested physically and by computer modelling. \ 1Layers of fine steel mesh. Houston. The innovation here lay in its application to building structures and its use in conjunction with ferro-cement. At the same time. the works of art had to be protected from direct sunlight and harmful radiation. so ferro-cement became part of the original concept. a material well known in industries where it is used. work was progressing on the process of making ferro-cement. tentative ideas put forward by the architects. of course. and the combination of these into shapes that would provide controlled daylighting to the gallery spaces. guarantee the quality of the finished leaves. The roof of the Menil Collection Museum exemplifies innovation achieved through an interactive design process. and arriving at a method of manufacture that would be economical and. The lighting conditions took precedence. traditionally used for boat building. At the same time. an aesthetically satisfactory shape was found that met the lighting and heat gain requirements. Thus the stage was set for a series of steps towards the design of ferro-cement leaves. so he proposed this material be incorporated as the upper steel elements of the roof structure. Physical models of various ferro-cement baffles were made and tested. It is the work of many people: the client was clear on the quality of light and atmosphere inside the museum. Rice had also been interested in ductile iron (cast iron with a high resistance to cracking).

Modern stone-cutting machines are fast and accurate. From the notion of the aqueduct came the idea of a series of a way appropriate to the Pavilion of the Future. stone was chosen to be the structural material here. This was to be one of the major theme buildings of the Exposition and the Committee had asked specifically that the solution be a spectacular one.. the designers felt that the facade or screen should be like a modern rtJin. The architect's basic idea was to create a tall. " .the stone arch . The concepts of form and material had been established: the challenge to the designers was to find how to express this ancient structural form . 4m apart. This technology. and the construction techniques were all pressed to the limit it was an exercise in nerve. Pavilion of the Future explored the frontiers of the possible. capable of producing hundreds of units in a fraction of the time it would have taken previously. Seville. arranged to minimise the volume of stone while maintaining the overall geometric dimensions necessary for the structural stability of the semi-circular arches. and above all belief and getting started. More perhaps even then the Centre Pompidou.there is nothing mysterious in the process of innovation. care and attention to detail. was exploited to create the facade's open stone units. . Its natural characteristic would be recognised and. it was to be used in a way that reflected the technology of the I 990's.4m between twelve pairs of stone columns." . Although one of the oldest construction materials. Seville Jn I 988. The materials. which span 22 . At a philosophical level. the structural form.Pavilion of the Future. The continuity of the facade was to give unity to the Pavilion as well as creating a dramatic back screen to the gardens.. Arups were allowed a vrrtually free hand to formulate ideas for this facade structure. supporting the curved roof beams of the Pavilion hung from the stone arches. architects in Barcelona. What is needed is just courage. which seemed a reasonable and logical form particularly since the facade wall was also to support the roof of the pavilion behind it. As Peter Rice has written. The next question was the form that this facade wall should take. 28m high and 2. be exploited to create a structure very different from the massive stone edifices of the past. combined with strong and reliable adhesives. Peter Rice was asked by Martorell Bohigas Mackay. comparable to a fragment of a Roman aqueduct. In the same way that ferro-cement and ductile iron had been chosen for the roof of the Menil Collection Museum. the methods of analysis. impressive facade structure that would also support the roof over the pavilion halls behind and the canopy over the central plaza between them. Expo '92. with the benefit of modern analytical fabrication and construction methods. if he and Arups would work with them on the design of the Pavilion of the Future at Expo '92.

Each petal is subdivided into ten radial segments. leading up to the top of a lower tier of seats. its flying saucer shape was to be surmounted by a lightweight cantilevered. the entire ring of the upper stand is subdivided into 26 distinct bays. the membrane roof at Bari exploits the translucency of the fabric whether it is seen from the inside against the blue skies of Southern Italy or from the outside at night when the floodlighting makes the entire stadium glow like some extra-terrestrial body. Like the Lord's Mound Stand. with an infill roof covering the open slots between the petals. the upper parts of which are separated one from another by a slot which provides access to the seats. cantilevered arms constructed in high grade steel with a closed box section of variable depth but constant width . created by building a gently sloping mound all around the stadium. . In the eventual design. led by Peter Rice. The primary supporting element to each petal's canopy is a pair of tapering. 000 seat stadium was to have an upper tier floating like a spaceship above a man made crater containing the arena. curved. facing North into the Adriatic Sea. Ove Arup & Partners. Renzo Piano was appointed architect. It was chosen as one of the twelve venues for the l 990 World Cup Football Championship and. From this initial concept the engineers worked alongside the architects in Renzo Piano's Building Workshop in Genoa to develop their ideas. were engineers for the project. Spaced between the main arms are three braced tubular arched beams over which the membrane roofing is stretched . canopy roof to provide shade. a feature which gives Bari an appearance unique among stadia. and support the floodlighting system . the city decided to build a new stadium on a green field site on its flat southern outskirts. Each of the 2 6 petals to the upper stand has its own independent canopy roof structure springing from the rear edge of the stand. which are concrete structural units forming part of the upper stand structure. Arups' particular involvement was to study the geometry of the stadium and devise a structural scheme consistent with the desired aesthetic and compatible with the established geometry. The curved profile given to the underside of the precast units creates a "seashell" effect to the soffit of the upper stand structure. for the occasion. Each bay thus becomes a "petal" of the upper stand structure. Bari Bari is an industrial port located on the "Achilles tendon" of Italy. The exposed underside of the upper tier was to be rounded and as uncluttered as possible.The San Nicola Stadium. The architect's concept for the 58. The front tips of the cantilever arms are connected by a "U" shaped tubular truss which accommodates an access walkway along the front edge of the roof while also supporting the floodlighting. some rain protection.

Michael Hopkins & Partners. replacing the Mound Stand and to be completed for the J 987 cricket season. Lords Cricket Ground. The joining together of those pieces to create the perfect surface means that the cuNature and shape of the fabric itself are difficult to see. won the competition. London In January I 985. When seen from across the cricket ground. the most prominent feature of their design was the fabric roof over the upper promenade on which were located the debenture seats. The way fabric is assembled to create the final form and one's perception of its shape (normally seen from the inside) is made evident by the seaming which arises from the cutting patterns. Peter Rice was one of the Arup team working with Hopkins on the project. debenture seating and hospitality boxes with associated bars. the MCC held an invited competition for the design of a new stand. the whole of the perception of the space and the way in which the fabric is used to create the internal ambience come from the way the patterning has been done: radial patterns are used to create a sense of individual space underneath each of the canopies. It was to provide public seating. the shadows of the seams at the points where the cutting pattern panels meet that enables the surface form to be perceived. which make the whole thing appear to float over the spectators. It is the doubling up of the material at the joints. For him. supported by Ove Arup & Partners. • . kitchens. it was intended to recall marquees around a village cricket ground. toilets and facilities for ground staff. This means that great care must be given to the selection of cutting patterns. one of the most important things about fabric was that it is normally a translucent material. restaurant and bars. He had for some time been interested in lightweight fabric structures and the possibilities they offered for a range of structural forms that defined architectural space. attached to catenary boundary cables held out from the supporting masts by horizontal booms.The Mound Stand. so that the perception of the overall surface is consistent with and enhanced by the detailing. At the Lord's Mound Stand. the roof appears more like a canopy than a tent an effect achieved by the scalloped edge to the fabric roof. particularly from the outside and particularly with fabric that is bleached to a pure white.