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In France, another Pompidou Center takes shape
By Deborah Snoonian, P.E.

The brashly exposed systems of Rogers and Piano’s original Pompidou Center in Paris captured the attention of critics when it opened in 1977, but it’s the draped sculptural roof of the center’s planned outpost some 200 miles east of the City of Lights that’s getting the wows this time around. Inspired by the shape and texture of a woven Chinese hat he found in Paris, architect Shigeru Ban, working with Jean de Gastines and engineers at Arup, envisioned a free-form roof made from modular hexagonal cells of timber, measuring about 3 feet long on each side. The resulting mesh structure will be capable of spanning distances up to 130 feet, enabling the roof to be supported by just a few columns near the building’s perimeter. The design team is still finessing how exactly to build it. “It’s an exercise somewhere between form-finding and form-making,” says Ban. Planners hope the new Pompidou Center, slated to open in 2008, will draw tourists to Metz, which is near the borders of Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium.


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The curvaceous roof of the new Pompidou Center (images # 2 & 4) will be constructed of a mesh of laminated timber and topped with a heat-reflecting, white fiberglass waterproof coating. Three long, rectangular exhibition galleries stacked on top of each other terminate in glazed ends that provide panoramic views of a new high-speed train station, the nearby Seille Park, and the skyline of the growing Metz region.

Images: Shigeru Ban Architects Europe