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Pompidou Centre (Beaubourg), Paris


The Making of Beaubourg:
A Building Biography of the Centre Pompidou, Paris

This is the story of how France's famed cultural icon, one of the most controversial and supremely public buildings of the century, was designed and built. Nathan Silver's detailed account of the Centre Pompidou -- still called Beaubourg by its designers, and by Parisians -- takes the form of a fascinating and insightful "building biography." Not just a book about a building, but about the making of a building, this fresh, heterodox means of inquiry is a holistic reading of the intricate process of creating architecture in contemporary society that brings to light its human story, encompassing its stylistic, historical, technical, and social aspects. Beaubourg, Silver reveals, was unlike anything that had ever been built. A realization of ideals and aspirations of its architectural generation, a rethinking of fundamental precepts of design and construction, it took nothing for granted, and it has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe -- flaunting new principles that other architects have to come to terms with.

The Making of Beaubourg

by Nathan Silver

Hardcover - 206 pages
Published May 1994 by MIT Press.
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ISBN: 0262193485
Other Editions:
Paperback - ISBN: 0262691973


The Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou is a giant, futuristic arts center located in the Beaubourg {boh-boor'} district of Paris. President Pompidou conceived (1969) the idea for Beaubourg, as the center is also known, to bring art and culture to the "man in the street". Beaubourg (Pompidou Centre)It was completed in 1978 by the architects Renzo Piano of Italy and Richard Rogers of England, and by the engineering firm of Ove Arup and Partners of England. The structure forms a huge transparent box whose exposed frame of tubular steel columns carries trusses spanning the width of the building. External mechanical systems -- elevators painted red; escalators in clear plastic tunnels; and giant tubes for air (painted blue), water (green), and electricity (yellow) -- all are conspicuously placed outside the main columns.

Considerable controversy arose over the assertive industrial style of the Pompidou Center, whose bold "exo-skeletal" architecture contrasts violently with surrounding houses in the heart of an old section of Paris near the Hôtel de Ville. The Center has been hugely successful, however, with its many art exhibitions and the National Museum of Modern Art, attracting more than 160 million people since its inauguration. The wear and tear resulting from some 26,000 daily visitors -- five times more than intended -- caused most of the facility to be shut down for renovations, to be re-opened at the end of 1999. Meanwhile, the library, Bibliothèque Publique Information, is housed in temporary quarters for the interim. Part of the building will be kept open for temporary exhibitions, and you can still take the escalators to the top floor for a marvelous view of Paris.

The Beaubourg Plaza in front of the Centre remains a very animated area: its jugglers, mimes and humorists from all over Europe continuously attract a crowd. This Paris tradition, which survives from the Middle Ages, can also be spotted in other areas like Saint-Germain-des-Près and the Place de la Contrescarpe (near the  Panthéon). The Beaubourg area is especially lively at night, offering visitors plenty of bars and restaurants.


For those who plan to visit many monuments and museums during their séjour à Paris, the Paris Tourist Office offers a "Museums and Monuments Card", valid for unlimited visits and priority access to 65 locations in - and around - Paris. It may be purchased at the Paris Tourist Office (127, avenue des Champs-Elysées), at its reception offices in Paris train stations, at the Eiffel Tower, in the major Métro stations, or at any of the 65 attractions. Cards are available in denominations valid for either one, three, or five consecutive days.

Location: Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris. Phone: 01-44-78-12-33. Admission: ??FF (to be updated for Y2K).
Hours: Mon. & Wed.-Fri., noon-10pm; Sat.-Sun., 10am-10pm. Métro: Rambuteau, Hôtel-de-Ville, or Châtelet-Les-Halles.

For more information on special programs and exhibits,
visit the Centre Georges Pompidou's own
web site.

Edited by Ian C. Mills, 1999.
Bibliography: Leland M. Roth, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Oregon, Eugene. (Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v9.0.1., 1997, Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT). Museums of Paris, Eloise Danto (1987). Paris From $70 A Day, Jeanne Oliver, 1998, Macmillan Travel, A Simon & Schuster Macmillan Company, New York. Fodor's 99 Paris, Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc., published in the U.S. by Random House, Inc., New York. (web site). Paris Digest (web site).


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