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Centre Georges Pompidou

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Centre Georges Pompidou
General information
Type Culture and Leisure
Architectural style Postmodern / High-Tech
Location Paris, France
Completed 1971 - 1977
Technical details
Structural system Steel superstructure with reinforced concrete floors
Design and construction
Architect Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini
Structural engineer Arup
Services engineer Arup
Part of the expositions in the Centre
Pablo Picasso's works in the Centre

Centre Georges Pompidou (French pronunciation: ​ [sɑ̃tʁ ʒɔʁʒ pɔ̃pidu]; also known as the Pompidou Centre in English) is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture.

It houses the Bibliothèque publique d'information, a vast public library, the Musée National d'Art Moderne which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. Because of its location, the Centre is known locally as Beaubourg (IPA:  [bobuʁ]). It is named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France from 1969 to 1974 who decided its creation, and was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The Centre Pompidou has had over 150 million visitors since 1977.

The sculpture, Horizontal by Alexander Calder, a free-standing mobile that is twenty-five feet high, was placed permanently in front of the Centre Pompidou by the architect of the building.

The inception

The idea for a multicultural complex sprouted from André Malraux, the first minister of cultural affairs, was the western prophet of art and culture as centralized political power. The idea for the Centre Pompidou as a nerve centre of the French art and culture, bringing together in one place the different forms of expression, can be traced back in a way to Malraux' ideas.(5) In the 1960s the city planners decided to move the foodmarkets of Les Halles, the historical structures were greatly prized and it was proposed that some of the cultural institutes would be appropriate occupants. Paris as a city of culture and art needed a boost and voices were raised to move the Musée d'Art Moderne to this more appropriate location. Another demand existed in Paris at the time, that for a decent public library, Paris at the time lacked any large, free, general-purpose library. At first the debate concerned Les Halles, but as the controversy settled, in 1968, President Charles de Gaulle announced the Plateau Beaubourg as the new site for the library. A year later in 1969, the new president adopted the Beaubourg project and decided it to be the location of both the new library and a centre for the contemporary arts. In the process of developing the project, the IRCAM (Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique) was also housed in the complex.(2) By 1992, the Centre de Création Industrielle was incorporated into the Centre Pompidou.



Building technology

The Centre was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano; British architect Richard Rogers; and Italian architect Gianfranco Franchini, assisted by Ove Arup & Partners. . The project was awarded to this team in an architectural design competition, whose results were announced in 1971. Its was the first time in France international architects were allowed to participate. World renowned architects Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Prouvé and Philip Johnson made up the jury which would select on design out of the 681 entries Reporting on Rogers' winning the Pritzker Prize in 2007, The New York Times noted that the design of the Centre "turned the architecture world upside down" and that "Mr. Rogers earned a reputation as a high-tech iconoclast with the completion of the 1977 Pompidou Centre, with its exposed skeleton of brightly coloured tubes for mechanical systems. The Pritzker jury said the 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."

Initially, all of the functional structural elements of the building were colour-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and devices for safety (e.g., fire extinguishers) are red. However, recent visits suggest that this colour-coding has partially lapsed, and many of the elements are simply painted white.


The Centre was built by GTM and completed in 1977. The building cost 993 million 1972 French francs. Renovation work conducted from October 1996 to January 2000 was completed on a budget of 576 million 1999 francs.

Building specifications
Land area 2 hectares (5 acres)
Floor area 103,305 m2
Superstructure 7 levels
Height 42 m (Rue Beaubourg side), 45.5 m (Piazza side)
Length 166 m
Width 60 m
Infrastructure 3 levels
Dimensions Depth: 18 m; Length: 180 m; Width: 110 m
Materials used
Earthworks 300,000 m3
Reinforced concrete 50,000 m3
Metal framework 15,000 tonnes of steel
Façades, glass surfaces 11,000 m2
Opaque surfaces 7,000 m2


Several major exhibitions are organized each year on either the first or sixth floors. Among them, many monographs:

  • Paul Davis (1977)
  • Henri Michaux (1978)
  • Dalí (1979)
  • Pollock (1982)
  • Bonnard (1984)
  • Kandinsky (1984)
  • Étienne Martin (1984)
  • Klee (1985)
  • Cy Twombly (1988)
  • Frank Stella (1988)
  • Andy Warhol (1990)
  • Max Ernst (1991)
  • Matisse (1993)
  • Joseph Beuys (1994)
  • Kurt Schwitters (1994)
  • Gerard Gasiorowski (1995)
  • Brâncuşi (1995)
  • Sanejouand (1995)
  • Bob Morris (1995)
  • Francis Bacon (1996)
  • Fernand Léger (1997)
  • David Hockney (1998)
  • Philip Guston (2000)
  • Picasso (2000)
  • Jean Dubuffet (2001)
  • Roland Barthes (2002)
  • Max Beckmann (2002)
  • Nicolas de Stael (2003)
  • Sophie Calle (2003)
  • Cocteau (2003)
  • Philippe Starck (2003)
  • Miró (2004)
  • Aurelie Nemours (2004)
  • Charlotte Perriand (2005)
  • Robert Rauschenberg (2006)
  • Jean-Luc Godard (2006)
  • Yves Klein (2006)
  • Hergé (2006)
  • Annette Messager (2007)
  • Richard Rogers (2007)
  • Samuel Beckett (2007)
  • David Claerbout (2007)
  • Julio González (2007)
  • Alberto Giacometti (2007)
  • Louise Bourgeois (2008)
  • Pol Abraham (2008)
  • Tatiana Trouvé (2008)
  • Miroslav Tichy (2008)
  • Dominique Perrault (2008)
  • Jean Gourmelin (2008)
  • Jacques Villeglé (2008)
  • Ron Arad (2008)
  • Alexander Calder (2009)
  • Kandinski (2009)
  • Pierre Soulages (2009)
  • Étienne Martin (2010)
  • Lucian Freud (2010)
  • Arman (2010)
  • Edvard Munch (2011)
  • Gerhard Richter (2012)
  • Dalí (2013)

Stravinsky Fountain

The nearby Stravinsky Fountain (also called the Fontaine des automates), on Place Stravinsky, features sixteen whimsical moving and water-spraying sculptures by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle, which represent themes and works by composer Igor Stravinsky. The black-painted mechanical sculptures are by Tinguely, the colored works by de Saint-Phalle. The fountain opened in 1983.

Video footage of the fountain appeared frequently throughout the French language telecourse, French in Action.

Place Georges Pompidou

The Place Georges Pompidou in front of the museum is noted for the presence of street performers, such as mimes and jugglers. In the spring, miniature carnivals are installed temporarily into the place in front with a wide variety of attractions: bands, caricature and sketch artists, tables set up for evening dining, and even skateboarding competitions.


Provincial branch

The Centre Pompidou-Metz.

In 2010, the Centre Georges Pompidou opened a provincial branch, the Centre Pompidou-Metz, in Metz a city 170 miles east of Paris. The new museum is part of an effort to expand the display of contemporary arts beyond Paris's large museums. The new museum's building was designed by the architect Shigeru Ban with a curving and asymmetrical pagoda-like roof topped by a spire and punctured by upper galleries. The 77 meters central spire is a nod to the year the Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris was built – 1977. The Centre Pompidou-Metz displays unique, temporary exhibitions from the collection of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which is not on display at the main Parisian museum. Since its inauguration, the institution has became the most visited cultural venue in France outside Paris accommodating 550,000 visitors/year.

In 2011, the museum for the first time went on the road to the French provinces with a selection of works from the permanent collection. To do this, it designed and constructed a mobile gallery, which, in the spirit of a circus, will strike camp for a few months at a time in towns throughout the country.

International expansion

In the past, the Centre Pompidou has tried to branch out overseas. In a joint proposal with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presented in 2005, the museum planned to build a museum of modern and contemporary art, design and the media arts in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District. In 2007, the then president Bruno Racine announced plans to open a museum carrying the Pompidou's name in Shanghai, with its programming to be determined by the Pompidou. The location chosen for the new museum was a former fire station in the Luwan district's Huaihai Park. However, the scheme never materialized, reportedly due to the lack of a legal framework for a non-profit foreign institution to operate in China.



  • since 2007: Alain Seban
  • 2002 - 2007: Bruno Racine
  • 1996 - 2002: Jean-Jacques Aillagon
  • 1993 - 1996: François Barré
  • 1991 - 1993: Dominique Bozo
  • 1989 - 1991: Hélène Ahrweiler
  • 1983 - 1989: Jean Maheu
  • 1980 - 1983: Jean-Claude Groshens
  • 1977 - 1980: Jean Millier
  • 1976 - 1977: Robert Bordaz

1977-2012 Pavel Stoliar


As all of France's national museums, the Centre Pompidou is government-owned and heavily subsidized. The Culture Ministry appoints its directors and has the last word on major policy decisions. In 2011, the museum earned $1.9 million from traveling exhibitions.

Established in 1977 as the institution's US philanthropic arm, the Georges Pompidou Art and Culture Foundation acquires and encourages major gifts of art and design for exhibition at the museum. Since 2006, the non-profit support group has brought in donations of 28 works, collectively valued at more than $14 million, and purchased many others.


The Centre Pompidou was intended to handle 8,000 visitors a day. In its first two decades it attracted more than 145 million visitors, more than five times the number first predicted. As of 2011, more than 180 million people have visited the museum since its opening in 1977. However, until the 1997 renovation, 20 percent of the centre's eight million annual visitors—in the main foreign tourists—rode the escalators up the outside of the building to the platform for the sights. In 2011, the museum saw an increase in attendance from 3.1 million (2010) to 3.6 million visitors.

Use in film and television

A fifth floor room of the building featured as the office of Holly Goodhead (played by Lois Chiles), in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, which in the film was scripted as being part of the space station of the villainous Hugo Drax ( Michael Lonsdale).

In 1977 Roberto Rossellini produced a documentary about the Centre, the last film he made, which explores the centre and its surroundings on its opening day.

Public transport

  • Nearby Métro stations: Rambuteau, Les Halles
  • RER: Châtelet – Les Halles
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