centre pompidou (piano & rogers)
12 usc students under the direction of Eric Haas take to paris in the 580 field studies course, investigating in depth the centre pompidou (1977), aka the beaubourg.
the historic tale of how piano & rogers won the 1971 competition for the contemporary museum and library in paris’s center is one of newly-budding architect lore: the tube of drawings sent to france from the u.s. for submission by the unknown young architects was denied entry into the postal service for being 2-inches too long (or some similar minute regulation detail), sent back to the U.s. whereupon the architects cut the tube (and drawings!) down by the necessary inches, begging its receipt back into the postal service (on a weekend?) to be air-delivered by the day(s)-away deadline. it came in just under the gate and won against 680+ well-respected architects of the time. though today the centre pompidou stands as an appreciated, even ingenious design, by the world, it wasn’t always so. jean baudrillard was among the beaubourg’s less encouraged critics and went on to write a pretty scathing piece about its design and program, which one wonders upon reading today how he might view the current culture of the world in the digital age.
“If, therefore, we denounce Beaubourg as a cultural mystification of the masses, the misunderstanding is total. The masses fall on Beaubourg to enjoy this execution, this dismembering, this operational prostitution of a culture that is at last truly liquidated, including all counterculture, which is nothing but its apotheosis. The masses charge at Beaubourg as they do the scenes of catastrophes, and with the same irresistible impulse. EVen better: they are the catastrophe of Beaubourg. Their number, their trampling, their fascination, their itch to see and touch everything comprise a behaviour that is in point of fact deadly, catastrophic, for the whole business. Not only does their weight threaten the building, but their adhesion and their curiosity destroy the very contents of this cultural spectacle. This stampede is totally out of scale with the cultural objectives proposed; this rush is, in its very excess and ‘success’, their radical negation. The masses, then, serve as the agent of catastrophe for this structure of catastrophe: the masses themselves will finish off mass culture. (Baudrillard, 1982)