New life of old Beaubourg
When, in the old Parisian quarter of Beaubourg, a cultural center was opened to the wider public, the bewilderment was more than enough. At first, many Parisians could not get used to this strange structure, especially considering that it was intended as a repository of the most outstanding works from all fields of art. Very little time passed, and the Pompidou Center, which is otherwise simply called “Beaubourg,” literally became a hostage to its own popularity. The capacity planned by its creators could not be compared with the actual number of visitors. The Pompidou Center has become so widely known that it overshadowed even the symbol of Paris itself – the Eiffel Tower. The concept behind the high-tech project chosen for construction was to make the building as functional as possible. To do this, the architects decided to maximally “unload” the internal space of the building, completely freeing it from the necessary communications. As a result, they were all brought to the facade. And now every visitor to this peculiar Mecca of art knows that the multi-colored pipes encircling the building are not at all elements of decor characteristic of high-tech architecture, but functionally justified systems. Thus, communications on air circulation were “hidden” in blue pipes, water supply in green pipes, electrical wiring in yellow pipes, lift equipment and security systems, including fire and alarm systems, in red pipes. The structure of the Center Pompidou consists of two divisions: the Museum of Contemporary National Art and the Department of Cultural Development. The purpose of the first of them is to present to the widest public the works of both contemporary art and previous eras in the field of sculpture, painting, drawing, design, architecture, photography, film, video, and so on. As for the Department for the Development of Culture, the opportunities provided to them for everyone are simply amazing. The huge library of the Center, the entrance to which is free, is designed for 2,000 seats. It has 350,000 of the most varied printed materials, including 150,000 books and magazines, 400 periodicals and 2,500 live recordings. Moreover, the Center’s library has at its disposal specially equipped rooms designed for people with blind or visually impaired. In addition, there is a large department equipped with information technology – 730 multimedia screens, 30 computers with Internet access, 60 printers and plus open access to all the documentation available to the Center, as well as a rich collection of encyclopedias. Linguaphone study, equipped with 120 new installations, provides an opportunity to independently study 135 languages of the world. And in the video hall, designed for 100 seats, there is a collection of 2,200 documentary films and voiced documents. In addition, there is also a collection of CD recordings consisting of 10,000 units. The non-profit Research Institute of Contemporary Music (IRCAM) operating under the Center annually receives a course of training for talented representatives from various parts of the world. This is the only subdivision that is located not in the Center building itself, but in the square adjacent to it, bearing the name of Igor Stravinsky.
Now we will not know whether the ideological inspirer of this project, the then President of the French Republic, Georges Pompidou, assumed, what success awaits his brainchild, but time has shown that the idea of building a grandiose cultural center that has become a real symbol of “culture for all” that came to him head in the late 60s of the last century, has fully justified itself. Although, judging by the number of applications submitted to the jury for the selection of the best project, the desire to think “avant-garde” was already in the air. Representatives of 49 countries proposed 681 jobs for consideration by the jury of the international architectural competition. So the task entrusted to the members of the jury, headed by the famous French architect – Jean Prouve, was not an easy one. And yet the time came when the names of the winners were announced. They were the Englishman Richard Rogers and the Italian Renzo Piano with the participation of another Italian citizen, Gianfranco Franchini. According to the jury, it was they who developed the project that most closely corresponded to the requirements put forward, which was based on the so-called “spatial diagram”. At the end of 1971, a special company was created by the French Ministry of Culture, called the Public Building Organization for the Construction of the Center in Beaubourg, which was entrusted with overseeing the construction and arrangement of the Center. Construction of the Center began in April 1972, two years later, work began on the construction of the steel roof of the building. At the same time, all the societies included in the project were founded. Five years after construction began, on January 31, 1977, the Center for National Art and Culture Georges Pompidou was officially opened by the then President of the French Republic, Valery Giscard d’Esten, his doors were opened to the general public on February 2. In the period from 1977 to 1995 (before reconstruction), more than 145 million people visited it. The whole building is divided into two parts. The first of them is a 3-tier infrastructure, where all technical and administrative services are located, and the second is a huge 7-storey superstructure of glass and metal, including a terrace and a mezzanine. This is where all the cultural events related to the main activities of the Center take place. And since, according to Georges Pompidou, the Center had to pay attention to all types of modern art – and sculpture, and painting, and literature, and music, and dance, and cinema, and video, and installations, and performances – then the designers focused their efforts to achieve the principle of “variability of space”, which could be effectively used in different areas of activity, while combining. And I must say, they managed to achieve this. Architects Richard Rogers was born in 1933 in Florence. After graduating from the Architecture School in London, he continued his education at Yale University. First, Rogers worked for the famous architect Norman Foster, and in 1970 he founded his own company in partnership with Renzo Piano (the second founder of the Center). His projects formed the basis for such structures as the Lloyd building (London, 1979-1984), the dome and facade connections of the Millennium Tower (London, 1979), as well as the house number 88 on Wood Street (London, 1993-2001 ). In his work, Rogers prefers not to start from the classical traditions that have come down to us from the past, but seeks to embody the technological and functional trends of the architecture of the future. At the same time, he is convinced that manufacturability should in no way be at odds with aesthetics and serve primarily to solve social and environmental problems. Rogers is also distinguished by the constant interest in the use of the so-called continuous space, which gives grounds to rank him among the adherents of the functionalist tradition that has developed in modern architecture. Renzo Piano was born in Genoa in 1937. He studied at the Milan Polytechnic School. After becoming a partner in the company Rogers and Piano in 1970, he was directly involved in the design and construction of many buildings in Italy and the UK. Like most followers of the architectural style of hi-tech, Piano in his work focuses on technology, but always combines in them all the new trends with the necessary requirements for convenience and functionality. The most famous work of Piano was the joint work on the project of the Pompidou Center, but, in addition, Piano developed the design of the IRCAM building (Paris, 1988-1989), and the terminal of Kansai Airport (Osaka, 1994).