The new Pompidou: big hit or big flop?

Image courtesy Jean de Gastines Architects

The new branch of the Centre Pompidou that opened earlier this month in Metz has little in common with its Parisian counterpart aside from the name and the art collection, of course. In terms of appearance, however, it owes nothing to Renzo Piano and Richard Roger’s famous ‘exposed’ exterior that generated quite a bit of debate before it was deemed genius. I’m not sure if I can predict the same fate for the Metz structure, designed by Shigeru Ban, Jean de Gastines and Philip Gumuchdjian.

The $106 million project is something of a diversion from the architects’ modern body of work. The undulating, lopsided roof is evocative of a pagoda, a circus tent and a stingray all at once, the former being, I suspect, the intention. There are also the ‘pods’ to consider, the burst bubble-forms through which the rectangular structures that house the museum’s galleries jut out in all directions, from underneath, out the sides with something else entirely poking through the top of the roof. The effect is very mod (and I don’t mean modern) and calls to mind the convention centers and pavilions of yesteryear that were very new, no doubt, at their inception but have since been relegated to that bygone era of all things charmingly retro. From some angles it looks not so bad at all, but from others it resembles something Luke Skywalker might have crashed into on Tatooine. But if you can overlook the exterior and choose not to judge the book by the cover, you will be rewarded by the collection housed inside, a rotating series of loans from the Parisian mothership that currently features a sweeping look at art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. It’s just too bad the cover cost so much.