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Pompidou Centre Paris

Exterior of the Pompidou Center in Paris

You never forget your first sight of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It’s a colourful, unique and totally iconic building. It’s an inside out building, a daring architectural design which caused controversy when it opened in 1977. It still does.

Due to close for 4 years for renovations from late 2023 until 2027, the Pompidou Centre is a modern art museum that’s a must-see in Paris.

Design of the Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre is in the 4th Arrondissement, in an historic area known as the Beaubourg district. And in fact the museum was originally called Centre Beaubourg. It was renamed as a tribute to President Georges Pompidou during whose reign the centre was built.

The main architectural team consisted of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. Construction work started in April 1972 and work on the metal framework began in September 1974. It was opened to the public on February 2, 1977. The Centre Pompidou covers 2 hectares with a total floor space of 103,305 square meters. The total cost of the construction was estimated to be a staggering 576 million Francs. Though if that seems a lot, the apparent cost of renovations has been estimated at as much as four times that.

Many of the glass and metal building’s functional and structural elements are on the outside and they’re colour coded in neon bright colours. Green pipes are for plumbing, electrics are yellow etc. Like ‘modern arteries’. Even the escalators are on the outside.

The design didn’t please everyone. Like the Eiffel Tower before it, which also garnered criticism, the ambitious and audacious look of the Pompidou caused heated debate. Some called it the ‘Beaubourg Folly’. To this day there are those who still detest it.

Nevertheless it’s become a landmark Paris site.

What to see at the Pompidou Centre

It houses the Musee National d’Art Moderne, the largest and most important museum of modern art in Europe. There are more than 50,000 artworks including paintings, sculptures, drawings and photography. But you can’t see them all at one, only several hundred are on display at any one time.  It’s the second largest collection of contemporary art in the world, after the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There are artworks by many greats -including Chagall, Kahlo and Matisse.

There are 10 levels, 7 above ground and 3 underground.

It houses two libraries: the Public Information Library which is accessible to the public free of charge. It has a huge collection of almost 500,000 books and can easily seat 2000 people at a time. There’s also the Kadinsky library, a research and document centre.

There also a theatre and screening rooms, three book shops and a boutique which is great for unusual gifts. Head to the Restaurant Georges on level 6 for fabulous views over the rooftops of Paris.

Did you know? The Centre Pompidou featured in a James Bond film, Moonraker (1979). A room on the fifth floor was Dr. Holly Goodhead’s office at Drax’s space-shuttle plant! Meanwhile the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte around 50km southeast, appeared in the film too – it was Drax’s residence!

Website for Pompidou Centre

More on Paris

Hotel de la Marine 

The monumental Pantheon

Opera Garnier – a mini Versailles


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