Centre Pompidou announces €200m restoration project to save building in “distress”

Centre Pompidou announces €200m restoration project to save building in “distress”
Facade of the Centre Pompidou. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Must see  -   Architecture

The Centre Pompidou, one of Paris’ iconic museums, has announced that it will be closed between 2023 and 2026 for critical restoration works on the building. Built in 1977, it is hoped that the extensive refurbishment project will be completed before the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2027.

The announcement comes as museums across France are eager to reopen amidst ongoing pandemic-related closures. However, the museum, known as the Beaubourg, is at the cusp of critical need for repairs. “We no longer have a choice, the building is in distress,” Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou, told French newspaper Le Figaro.

In September of last year, talks about restoring the Centre Pompidou began. “”There were two options on the table, one being to restore the centre while keeping it open, the other being full closure,” said culture minister of France Roselyne Bachelot. “I chose the second because it turned out to be shorter in time and a little cheaper.”

In all, the project will cost around €200 million and will see the removal of asbestos from the building and improvements made to the heating and cooling units. The refurb will also include improved accessibility, a major overhaul of the museum’s computer and server system, and overall improvement to the building’s safety.

When the museum was completed in the late 1970s by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, Piano described it as a “big urban toy.” It has long divided opinion between those who love the unusual aesthetic of its architecture, which has an exoskeleton of sorts created by the building’s innerworkings, and those who find it to be an eyesore. Despite individual thoughts on the building, the Centre Pompidou is the largest European museum of Modern and has a large public library, which will be relocated during the restoration project.

This will be the second time the building has faced construction works since it opened. In 1997, the Centre Pompidou was closed for three years while €88 million in works were completed that increased gallery space among other things. Just before the pandemic set in, a €19 million renovation project began on the “caterpillar,” the covered, red-bottomed escalator that crawls up the façade of the building. Begun in September 2019, the escalator is expected to be finished in May after having briefly stopped last spring due to the pandemic.

“These works will guarantee the future of the Centre Pompidou,” said Lasvignes in a press release. “In concrete terms, our aim is to preserve our key masterpiece, the building itself, which has not undergone any major renovation since 1977. This work is essential if it is to remain an international icon of modernity and contemporary architecture attracting thousands of visitors every year.”