The Art Newspaper – It was number 493 of the 681 submissions to a 1971 architectural competition set up by the French government for a grand cultural centre on the Plateau Beaubourg in Paris. The design by the young architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers (together, less famously, with Gianfranco Franchini and the engineers Ove Arup), was a radical proposal for “the construction of a building for information, fun and culture, a sort of machine, an ‘informative tool’”, as Piano and Rogers put it.
With glass walls and an outer skeleton in elegant cast steel, in which the usually hidden or underplayed functions of buildings—staircases, escalators, ducting, cooling towers—were unabashedly exposed and foregrounded, it prompted shockwaves in the French capital (and beyond). “It’s an extraordinary tribute to the jury to have recognised these two great architects so early on, and not have gone for a more renowned practice,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries. “And it’s probably the best jury for any building in the 20th century: it included Jean Prouvé, Oscar Niemeyer and Philip Johnson.” – read more