Centre of attention
In the historic French city of Metz, the extravagant, gently arcing complex structure that is the Centre Pompidou-Metz is awaiting its opening date in May 2010. Since an announcement in 2003 confirming that the Centre Pompidou’s first decentralised cultural centre was to be built in the city, the world has been awaiting the Pompidou-Metz’s completion. Shigeru Ban Architects Europe and Jean de Gastines, Paris, worked in collaboration on this project. Architect Philip Gumuchdjian also assisted during the completion phase.
The basic shape of the vast structure is hexagonal, although the abstract roof belies its true form. At 8,000 sq m, the roof itself is said to be inspired by a Chinese hat that Shigeru Ban, one of the architects on this project, found in Paris. Using a white fibreglass membrane coated with a layer of Teflon, (Poly-Tetra-Fluoro-Ethylene) the Pompidou-Metz’s curving roof is supported by a complex hexagonal mesh, constructed from glue laminated timber with wooden beams spaced 2.90m apart. This supportive mesh is highly resilient, hence it is able to hold up the extensive roof area. The outer coating is not only completely waterproof, but controls the naturally temperate environment, ensuring the ultimate conservation of the art within its walls. At the centre of the building is a 77m spire, said to be symbolic of the opening year of the original Centre Pompidou in Paris, 1977.
Inside the expansive inner space lie three permanently unfixed areas which can be moderated to fit and accurately display the current original exhibitions. These three exhibition spaces are constructed of rectangular (parallelepipedic) tubes which jut out through the roof, sporting large scale picture windows angled directly towards the surrounding landmarks. The main nave of the building is set to house the most important and exquisite works of art, with an impressive ceiling rising from 5.70m to 18m in height.
Alongside the artistic exhibition spaces in the Centre Pompidou-Metz, will be an auditorium with seating for 144 people, a creative studio – a circular building multipurpose building which can seat up to 200 people – and a 70 sq m rooftop cafe. In order to ensure the comfort and safety of its visitors, the Centre was rigorously tested throughout its construction. To test the structure’s resilience to intense wind and snow, the future Centre Pompidou-Metz was buffeted by large ventilators and snow cannons in the Jules Verne wind tunnel. The safety of pedestrians was of the utmost importance to the architects on this project and the comfort of pedestrians in the Centre’s surrounding areas was found to be satisfactory. It is hoped that when the surrounding structures are built, these results will improve still further. The completed Centre Pompidou-Metz is set to open its doors in May 2010.