Blue for air, green for water, yellow for electricity, red for safety. This is the Rue du Renard facade of the Pompidou Centre showing the complex working of this famously ‘inside out’ building. The functional elements are all colour coded, both inside and outside the building, though the engineering of the building was led by aesthetics as much as the other way round.
The 1970s building was a trail blazing design by a young team of architects. A few other landmark buildings, notably Richard Rogers’ building for Lloyds of London, followed similar principles but generally the inside out aesthetic never really took off. Putting the services on the outside of a building may free up uncluttered, flexible space on the inside but it also makes maintenance a costly and complicated business.
The Pompidou Centre was a building of its time and it’s unlikely that anything like it will be built in future. As Andy Sedgwick of Arup engineers remarked in a 2013 comment column, the architectural agenda moves on and authorities today would demand a much more energy efficient building. All that pipework on the outside is impossible to insulate.
I walk past this facade of the building regularly and I’ve grown fond of it. The abstract patterns of coloured lines change as you walk along the street and when you’re up close there are always more details to notice. I’m glad it’s there, but I’l also glad there are no more buildings like it in the city. From what I’ve read, it seems a lot of Parisians feel the same way.