Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano`s proposal for the Centre Pompidou – a comprehensive cultural amenity and one of France`s grand projets of the 1980s – was a truly flexible container in which all interior spaces could be rearranged at will and exterior elements could be clipped on and off over the life span of the building. The notion of flexibility is extended to every component of the building; the Centre was to act as ‘an ever-changing framework, a meccano kit, a climbing frame for the old and the young`. Conceived as a well-serviced shed, the building contains a series of uniform spaces supported externally by a free-standing structural frame, the whole capable of change in plan, section and elevation, able to absorb the unforeseen requirements of the future.The lower level of the building contains large public areas such as the theatre, shops, reception and street-level café. Above, vast open floors house galleries, outdoor terraces and administrative areas. Finally, the top floor accommodates a restaurant, experimental cinema and temporary exhibitions, all of which could be open late into the night, bringing life and activity to the square during the evening. Half the site was left unbuilt to make way for a square of civic proportions which could be used for a wide variety of community uses including markets, exhibitions, performances, circuses, games, buskers and so on. Rue St. Martin, with its lively mix of residences above businesses, was closed to traffic to allow the cafes, restaurants and shops to spill out into the square. Facing the square, the west façade is given over to vertical and horizontal movement, taking advantage of spectacular views over Paris. Circulation devices – escalators, lifts, escapes.

Constructed, 1977
Commissioned, 1971