POLARISING PERSPECTIVES

Centre Pompidou

EUPHORIC1 0DISTURBING

Architecture can split opinion, divide judgement and inspire debate like no other.

In the modern era, some of the world’s most provocative buildings have been designed by British architects.

Scroll down to explore both sides of the story.

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Six million visitors in its very first year

Six million visitors in its very first year

The piazza became one of the most frequently visited places in Paris – as its designers intended – with crowds flocking to gain unrivalled views of the city.

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Six controversy-laden years of construction

Six controversy-laden years of construction

Costing a total of 480,000,000 Francs to complete, it took 25,000 drawings, seven lawsuits and endless battles over budgets to finally construct the building.

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“The supreme moment of technical euphoria”

—ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW

The supreme moment of technical euphoria

Many see the building as the most spectacular post-war monument in Paris, regarding it as the catalyst behind a whole new attitude to public architecture in the city.

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“The back of a refrigerator, enormously enlarged”

—SUSAN GOLDMAN RUBIN

The back of a refrigerator, enormously enlarged

With an exposed structure opening up its steel structure, giant external escalators and service ducts, some critics view the building’s style as ‘disturbing’.

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“Immediately people started to come around. The press changed tack and carried on as if they had loved it all along”

—RICHARD ROGERS

Immediately people started to come around. The press changed tack and carried on as if they had loved it all along

Despite the initial outrage, Rogers sensed that the public, and press, began to change opinion over time. It eventually became the most visited building in Europe.

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“I was once standing outside it and I told an old lady that I was the architect. She hit me with her umbrella”

—RICHARD ROGERS

I was once standing outside it and I told an old lady that I was the architect. She hit me with her umbrella

Such was the adverse reaction from Parisians to the building’s radical design, architect Richard Rogers was subject to some extraordinary public hostility.

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“A defiant technological intervention into the historic cityscape”

—KENNETH POWELL

A defiant technological intervention into the historic cityscape

The building’s radicalism was seen by some as the driving force behind regenerating an area shattered by the destruction of the old market, Les Halles.

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“An act of vandalism against one of the oldest quarters of Paris”

—PAUL LEWIS

An act of vandalism against one of the oldest quarters of Paris

The immense, futuristic building was often compared to a battleship that had run aground, or a vast oil refinery. Its place in the city was hotly debated.

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Continue the story

THE BUILDING

Centre
Pompidou

THE BUILDING

Find out more about one of the world’s most controversial buildings, and how it’s split opinion from day one.

Learn more >

THE SEASON

The Brits Who Built The Modern World

THE SEASON

Explore our celebration of the British architects redefining the world’s cities with extraordinary buildings.

Learn more >

More Polarising perspectives

"Pompidou" Emmanuel Thirard / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

"Pompidou side" by brendangates, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

"Centre Pompidou Metz" by Ghislain Sillaume, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"Centre Georges Pompidou" by Rui Ornelas, used under CC BY 2.0

"Paris skyline, Paris / FR, 2008" by William Veerbeek, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

"Love" by Shadow Priest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0