Archigram and the Pompidou Centre
By James Barrell
The Pompidou Centre (Paris, France) is considered to be one of the most significant pieces of architecture post the second world war. Completed in 1971, by architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, the Pompidou centre was a radical and somewhat controversial reinvention of an exhibition centre.
One of the most prominent aspects of the design is the buildings inversion of itself with service and structure on the exterior of the building. This allows for vast open floorplates to accommodate a plethora of different exhibitions. Moreover, the design expresses ideas about transparency with the significant usage of glass on the buildings facade. This was, in part, a response to the student riots in France against capitalism, consumerism and institutions shrouded in secrecy. The openness of the building and the large piazza (not included in the project brief) provides a platform for residents and activists to voice there concerns to the public without intimidation.
The building was influential on igniting successful and long careers for Rogersand Piano however, as often is the case inart and architecture, their ideas are not truly original. Rogers and Piano take inspiration from prominent mavericks of the architecture world, Archigram. Archigram was a group of architecture students leaving the AA in the 60s.
Archigram’s projects were completely hypothetical yet challenged peoples opinions on consumerism and heroism in design. There designs are often considered to be glamorous and idealistic, lacking any consideration social and environmental issues. They do however re-imagine the machine age outlined by Walter Benjamin (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Considered to be the seminal project of the group, the Plug in City (Peter Cook), constructs a futuristic society with enormous framework into which standardised cells are “plugged” into. It imagines the singularity, the point when machines exceed human intelligence, and humans act as raw material for the continuation of society.
Archigram’s influence on the Pompidou centre is very obvious. From the vivacious colour scheme of the buildings service pipes to the concepts surround transparency and the megastructure.
The Pompidou is an architectural icon of the 1970s, and arguable one of the strongest manifestations of the ideas expressed by Archigram in the 60s.
The works of Peter Cook and the Pompidou centre provide inspiration for my current design project based in Sarajevo. The design is for an incrementally constructed centre for political activism that creates a stronger, more united, body of people through the development of grassroot politics. The structure of the building is inspired by the flexibility of both of the precedents and the ideas around building a new kind of society through architectural interventions.
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