"Detailed yet riveting--a well-researched, well-written, lively investigation of the creation of one of the most important cultural artifacts of this century. Silver Adheres to a place and readable style that should enlighten the general reader as well as the professional one."--Suzanne Stephens, architecture critic and editor of "OCULUS"
This is the story of how France's famed cultural icon, one of the most controversial and public buildings of the century, was designed and built. Nathan Silver's detailed account of the Centre Pompidou - still called Beaubourg by its designers, and by Parisians - takes the form of a "building biography." Not just a book about a building but also about the making of a building, this means of inquiry is a holistic reading of the intricate process of creating architecture in contemporary society that brings to light its human story, encompassing its stylistic, historical, technical and social aspects. Beaubourg was unlike anything that had ever been built. A realization of ideals and aspirations of an architectural generation, a rethinking of fundamental precepts of design and construction, it took nothing for granted, and it has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe - flaunting new principles with which other architects have had to come to terms. The text's discovery of this building is never separated from the process, politics, crises and controversies of its making.
Based on interviews conducted at the time with all of the key players, Silver presents a behind-the-scenes narrative of design process and decision making that he weighs with bold critical scrutiny. Silver explores the saga of the designers' battles, over a period of five and a half years, to maintain control and build within budget. He starts from the beginning when the British/Italian/Anglo-Danish design team, including architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano and engineers Peter Rice and Ted Happold of Ove Arup, took a long-shot gamble on an international competition. Silver then details the design team's conception of a building with flexible plans and adjustable elevations, describes the development of a structural system as inventive as that of the Eiffel Tower and equally as public in its urban rhetoric, and concludes with the triumph of Beaubourg's popular and critical reception.