In opposition to the Centre National d’art et de Culture Georges Pompidou of Paris, which has been cause of simultaneous critiques and appreciations for his almost poetically futurist concept of ‘machine-building’, the Centre Pompidou of Metz convinced everybody, representing an important urban and cultural pole for the French city.
Some say that we should have to imagine a poor version of the Centre Pompidou made by Piano and Rogers. As Alain Seban himself (director of the Parisian Centre) states, we’d be wrong. The orders given by the central venue are clear but the real strength of this projects stands in its openness to the European cultural scene: temporary expositions, selected from the ones bought by the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM), guarantee a constant intercultural exchange.
The notice of competition for the construction of a new expo centre named on George Pompidou was published in 2003: of the 157 participating projects the winner was the one made by Shigeru Ban, helped in this occasion by Jean de Gastines and Philip Gumuchdjian thanks to the idea that “architecture should have to translate the openness and the exchange between different cultures as well as the sense of comfort given by an immediate and sensorial relation with the surrounding environment”.
Now, let’s look at the Centre a little closer. This cultural centre raises upon a hexagonal base and its expositional halls, rolled on the central cusp-shaped coverage, are rectangular. 77 meters tall (not a casual height: it is a tribute to the year
when the Pompidou Centre of Paris opened) and suspended 37 meters above the floor it consists of a hexagonal intertwining of wooden beams; its structures (which have been elaborated with CNC machines in order to obtain beams with multi-directional curves) are covered with a membrane made of fibreglass and Teflon that assures a perfect illumination for the spaces below. Its inner halls are oriented towards the most important sites of Metz such as the Cathedral and the Parc de la Seille. Is this a device to make the Pompidou Centre's extrovert spirit clear? Maybe it is so, if we consider its strategic position.
The choice of the venue has been conditioned by the plan of renovation for the city of Metz signed by Nicolas Michelin and by the location of the city which, being close to Germany, Belgium and Holland, takes benefit from the efficient railway transport system that makes Metz able to be connected to important cultural centres such as Vienna, Munich and Amsterdam.
The chosen venue satisfies the requirements wrote in the note of competition: an effort to spread the arts internationally, to sensitize the visitors to the creation of art, to reach a younger audience. As the director Laurent Le Bon states: “it was designed to surprise and amaze, to give pleasure and to stimulate the audience's attention to contemporary art”. Though being a challenge and a responsibility for the city of Metz, the new Pompidou Centre reveals itself as a point of ignition towards a new status of museum and international cultural centre.