Centre Pompidou Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and the Making of a Modern Monument Francesco Dal Co

Great Architects/Great Buildings
Publication date:
03 Jan 2017
Yale University Press
168 pages: 229 x 178mm
43 color + 89 b-w illus.
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A lively intellectual biography of one of the 20th century’s most iconic buildings

The Centre Georges Pompidou, also called Beaubourg, is today considered an icon of contemporary Paris, the quintessence of a modern building, and a model for what a museum can be. In 1971, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, together with the engineering firm Ove Arup & Partners, won an international architecture competition with their innovative and irreverent design. Completed in 1977, the building was at first received skeptically by critics, yet it was quickly embraced by the public as a beloved monument of the modern city of Paris. This lively intellectual biography of the building explores its history and the reasons for its success, from its genesis as a politically calculated response to Paris’s turbulent 1968 student protests to the role played by architects in its construction, as well as the historical influences and the engineering solutions that inform its design. A key reason for the Centre Pompidou’s success indeed lies in its ability to channel architectural memory, connecting it powerfully to Paris’s historic urban fabric. This essential text on one of the twentieth century’s most significant buildings is accompanied by a portfolio of rare drawings and photographs. 

Francesco Dal Co is professor of history of architecture at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura Venezia (IUAV) and director of the architecture magazine Casabella. His many publications include Modern Architecture (with Manfredo Tafuri) and Figures of Architecture and Thought.

“Dal Co’s book, an extensive and intriguing history of the structure that transformed a bland car park in Centre Beaubourg into museum of the future, offers a great starting point for a serious reflection on its impact and legacy.”—Patrick Sisson, Curbed

“Francesco Dal Co weaves together anecdotes, history, and a poignant analysis of the design and construction of one of Paris’s most iconic buildings, as well as its surrounding political and social conditions. Early blueprints and photographs are paired with news coverage and critiques to contextualize the Centre Pompidou as a truly influential Modernist undertaking.” —Metropolis

“Dal Co has masterfully braided together the narratives behind this extraordinary work…. If you wish to pay tribute to the building on its anniversary, read this small book by a great historian. You will not regret it.”—Luis Fernández-Galiano, Arquitectura Viva

“Francesco Dal Co has reconstructed an incredible adventure and his account is revelatory. Upon reading it, I realized many things that I had personally experienced but had never before understood.”—Renzo Piano

“The Centre Pompidou has inaugurated the age of spectacular cultural projects. From its genesis in post-’68 Paris to its worldwide reception, Francesco Dal Co has masterfully chronicled the epics of its invention.”—Jean-Louis Cohen, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

“Francesco Dal Co’s excellent history delivers an agile and incisive perspective on the Centre Georges Pompidou and its political and cultural context in the wake of Paris 1968.”—Richard Rogers

“This indispensable book recounts how architects and engineers working in late-1960s London gave birth to an architectural vision in the iconic Centre Pompidou, a building that still inspires architects today.”—Rafael Moneo, Pritzker Prize-winning architect and professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design

“This unparalleled account of the Centre Pompidou eloquently draws together the many threads that make it one of the twentieth-century’s key buildings. Based solidly in the historical record, the book is also a meditative reflection on architecture and history writing today.”—Nicholas Adams, Vassar College

"The edition is completed with an extraordinary gift: a forty page collection of photographs and drawings that depict the process and the outcome of the building […] Anyone who has visited the building, and shows a minimum sensitivity for architecture, will surely find this fun and exciting storyline appealing."—David H Falagán, Arquilecturas