In 1969, French Prime Minister Georges Pompidou dedicated a vacant lot in Paris to be used for the construction of a new type of multidisciplinary cultural center. The center would house Paris’s first free public library as well as a museum and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. The goal of this center was to renew the idea of Paris as a leading city of culture and art.
An architectural competition was announced and for the first time France allowed architects world-wide to participate. Only one design was chosen from a total of 681 entries from 49 countries by a jury of world-renowned architects Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Prouvé and Philip Johnson. The group that consisted of Italian architects Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini and British architect Richard Rogers.
The design of Centre Pompidou turned the architecture world upside down. The reaction to the design was described as “love at first sight” by National Geographic. The post-modern high tech masterpiece was completed in 1977. Its steel superstructure with reinforced concrete floors is nothing compared to its brilliant external appearance. All of the functional structural elements of the building are color coded and fully exposed: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and devices for safety are in red.
In 2007, Richard Rogers won the Pritzker Prize for Pompidou. The Pritzker jury said Pompidou “revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.” Pompidou is best known for being home to the largest Modern Art Museum in Europe, Musée National d’Art Moderne that has seen over 180 million visitors since its opening in 1977. Because of its popularity, Centre Pompidou opened a provincial branch 170 miles east of Paris named Centre Pompidou-Metz. In 2015, 70 works from the Museum’s collection were on display at a “pop-up Centre Pomidou” called The Cube in Málaga, Spain. Mexico has recently confirmed to be the next country to house a “pop-up Centre Pompidou” with more being planned world-wide.