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Centre Georges Pompidou

Shigeru Ban Architects

The opening of the Centre Georges Pompidou (CGP) in Metz last May was a coherent move by the Paris based (state-run) modern art museum. Not only does the new facility remediate a severe shortage of exhibition space, it also – like the Guggenheim - capitalizes on the huge success of a very bankable brand that has drawn millions of visitors since the CGP first opened in 1977. When in 2003, the process was started for a new CGP, the aura of the Piano & Rogers building invariably infused the Metz competition brief, inviting competitors to innovate while retaining the Zeitgeist. The winning entry by Shigeru Ban & Jean de Gastines could be described as having two distinct component parts: an assembly of three stacked exhibition spaces on the one hand, and a roof structure on the other. Today the new museum stands on a green-field site with no other buildings around and a short walk from the train station. Of all the competition entries, the Ban/Gastines design most clearly expressed an image of structural innovation and typological renewal consistent with Shigeru Ban’s body of work. Since the early 1990’s, Ban has addressed issues pertaining to materiality and space with a distinctive approach that has never been fully japanese or western. Three of his case study houses (Grid House, Furniture House, Paper House) best express his desire to implement concepts of structural and spatial organization, using various construction techniques and/or focusing on different aspects of the programme, but always bringing programme, structure and space together. Prior to Metz, Ban had used an impressive array of materials and building systems, from PVC tensile roof systems and cellular polycarbonate to cast-in-place concrete and structural steel, all of them in distinctive fashion, in specific contexts. His interest in building structures seems not just motivated by a concern for technique or elegance but also to show how fundamentally these affect architectural expression as a...

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