Though it opened 31 years ago, Centre Pompidou looks still young. As always, there had been a competition between several plans, and unusually the winner was a most daring project, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and the British Richard and Sue Rogers. and when it opened, with a mono-graphic exhibition of Marcel Duchamp, as far as I remember, it was a very controversial matter.
With its colored tubes and white pipes, it looked as a playful kind of skeleton factory, and for museum it was not at all dignified.
It was instantly a huge success: its large public library was very popular among students and young people, as well as its great exhibitions and its modern art permanent collection.
In the first years, one could use freely the escalators to go up to the terrace and have a drink or just enjoy the sun and the view.
Instantly, the place was called Beaubourg, after the name of the area it’s built in, and that is still the name Parisians use rather than Centre Pompidou (it was named after the French President who signed for it, Georges Pompidou, who was really interested in modern art. )
Nowadays, you have to go in and take a ticket to go up.
There you will also find a shop selling design things and small clothes, a bookshop, and an expansive self-service café. (Do prefer outdoor cafés around)
Outdoor, you can take a private elevator if you have made a reservation at le Georges, the quite expansive – but not gastronomic – restaurant on top. Though the setting designed by Dominique Jacob and Brendan McFarlane matches perfectly with Beaubourg’s style, it is mostly worthwhile outdoors on sunny days.
For its thirtieth birthday, the permanent modern art collection has reopened in a new presentation, and it is extremely rich and impressive.
As part of this celebration, Beaubourg is now showing, since November 2007, a mono-graphic exhibition of Richard Rogers work over the 40 past years.
The place is often crowded on its plaza side, the museum entrance side, people watching street performers, as in most touristic places.
I do prefer to go nearby to Stravinsky Fountain, featuring mobile sculptures by Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
It is a great place for children too.
Centre Pompidou, place Georges Pompidou, 75003 Paris, Metro Rambuteau tel 33(0)1 44 78 12 33. Open everyday but Tuesday 11 to 21, Price 10 euros for all museum and exhibitions. Exhibition “Richard Rogers and architects” up to March 3.
For more information and reservation, go to : http://www.centrepompidou.fr/Pompidou/Accueil.nsf/tunnel?OpenForm
Le Georges : reservation tel 33(0)1 44 78 47 99, fax 33(0)1 44 78 48 93, virtual visit on :