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Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France

Issue 57 Oct / Nov 2010 : Architectural : Museum

In May this year, the Centre Pompidou in Paris opened its long awaited satellite gallery in the city of Metz. Positioned close to the German, Luxembourg and Belgian borders, the Centre Pompidou-Metz (CPM) is seen as an opportunity to bring French art and culture closer to an international audience, as well as create a high profile tourist destination in the host city.

Though operating independently from the original Centre Pompidou, this new institution is able to draw on the Paris-based collection of over 65,000 works of contemporary art, as well as utilising the expertise and reputation of the original.

The move echoes the Guggenheim template of establishing offshoot museums around the world – a programme started in Bilbao with the titanium sheathed galleries designed by Frank Gehry.

The Centre Pompidou is no stranger to landmark architecture, its design by Rogers and Piano caused a stir among Parisians when it opened in 1977 and, while the board didn’t want a direct copy, it was important that the new CPM shared a flavour of the original’s adventurous architecture.

The building, by architects Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, is a vast modular structure set around a central spire that rises 77 metres above ground.

As well as 5,000sqm of gallery spaces – designed to accommodate large-scale installations – the museum incorporates a studio for live performances, an auditorium, a resource centre, reception areas, a shop, a restaurant and a café. Outside, a restaurant terrace and gardens provide further opportunities to exhibit works.

The centre’s main structure is formed from three rectangular tubes – the main gallery spaces – stacked one on top of the other, each rotated 45º from the one below. Above this floats a white membrane roof, held up by a hexagonal latticework of wooden beams that sprout from the ground at four points around the base of the building.

It took ten months to prepare and four months to install this wooden mesh: constructed from 18 kilometres of glue-laminated timber beams. Each beam was uniquely CNC–machined to the required proportions, with multi-directional curves, and all the holes needed for final assembly (node points, pins and braces) pre formed. Inspired by a traditional Chinese hat, the entire geometry was modelled using proprietary form-finding software.

Ban and de Gastines were clear on the impact they felt the Centre should have. “As visitors make their way across the terrace and through the gardens that connect the Centre Pompidou-Metz with the town centre and the railway station, they will see a bright, luminous building that appears to be both strong yet light, and which seems to invite them to take shelter under its protecting roof. We wanted the architecture to convey a sense of well-being, openness and multi-cultural mix in a building that has a direct, sensory relationship with its surroundings.”
I.C.O.N. were given responsibility for designing all lighting visible from the exterior. “Viewing it from the urban tissue of Metz, this new eye-catching architecture is supposed to play an important role, not only in the daytime, but also during the darkness,” says I.C.O.N.’s Akari-Lisa Ishii. “Lighting is for sure an indispensable medium to reinforce its innovative design in the urban context, as well as to represent its presence at night, because light emits messages. In order to underline this impressive structure with three tubes and gigantic but weightless roof, floodlighting enlightens the centre of art. Lit–up tubes fly like carpets, and the roof floats in the air like a glowing cloud.”

Ishii’s lighting design aimed to heighten the impression of a ‘floating’ roof using up-lighting and indirect lighting, while at the same time ensuring fixtures were placed as discretely as possible to maintain the simplicity of the architectural design. The variety of fittings were kept to a minimum to help keep maintenance costs low and fixtures were grouped together as much as possible to simplify cabling work.
Efficiency and reliability were key in selecting fixtures, as was the need to ensure the uniformity of colour temperature of all exterior lighting.
The lighting is pre-set to different switching patterns according to time and usage, with a simple timer programme used to switch off fixtures in groups. Fittings at lower position in the building are turned off at 11PM, those in the middle at midnight, and the tower top and the flag remaining lit all night acting as a beacon for the city.

The 10,700 sqm roof membrane is lit from below. Comatelec-Schreder fixtures - flat projectors mounted on the building’s façade and box shape projectors placed around the top of the gallery tubes in an asymmetric photometry - create the desired ‘welcoming glow’ and reveal the wooden beam structure in silhouette. Four iGuzzini ground-recessed spots placed around the base of each of the canopy’s supporting columns (dubbed ‘tulip’ pillars) illuminate the latticework structure as it emerges from the ground.

The outer walls of the three main galleries are illuminated with 150W projectors. As a result, the distinct shapes remain clearly visible.
Visitors enter the CPM below the first gallery, which juts out from beneath the roof canopy. The underside of this counter-levered box is punctuated with a series of Simes 70W recessed downlights. Inside the building, this pattern of downlights continues along the gallery’s underbelly using iGuzzini Sistema Easy fixtures. The use of a uniform 3000K colour temperature helps link the internal and exterior spaces.
Inside the main atrium, a hexagonal tower houses lifts and stairway to the upper floors, its metal exoskeleton fitted with Sill mini spots to emphasis the structure. The atrium exhibition space, the Grand Nave, is lit by a grid of fluorescent lighting fitted to the grid structures on the underside of the top two gallery tubes.

Lighting designers George Berne, Rémy Cimadevilla, and Antony Perrot of l’Observatoire 1 were given the task of creating an appropriate scheme inside the three main gallery tubes and auditorium.

A grill ceiling in each of the gallery spaces creates a void running the length of the room. Above the grill sit rows of 54W fluorescent strips housed in custom-made fixtures that directs the light upwards, bouncing it off the ceiling and down into the room. Thus the gallery is filled with a ‘sky’ of perfectly uniform light, bathing the whole space and providing approximately 500 lux vertically. To highlight individual artworks, 45W spotlights can be fixed to the grill as required.

Whether the Centre Pompidou-Metz can truly repeat the Bilboa effect remains to be seen, but with visitor figures in the hundreds of thousands, it seems the lure of world-class architecture and master works of art have, for many, proved irresistable.

Project Details

Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France
Client: Greater Metz, City of Metz, Centre Pompidou
Lighting Designer (exterior): I.C.O.N. (Akari-Lisa Ishii)
Lighting Designer (interior): l’Observatoire 1 (George Berne, Rémy Cimadevilla, Antony Perrot)
Architect: Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines - SARL Shigeru Ban Architects Europe

Lighting Specified
iGuzzini: 24 x Multiline ground recessed spot around tulip pillars; 41 x Sistema Easy ceiling recessed downlight under the tube 1 (indoor); 44 x Sistema Easy ceiling recessed downlight in service area under the tube 1 & WC
Zumtobel: 6 x Slotlight ceiling recessed line at reception counters
ERCO: 20 x Lightcast ceiling recessed downlight inside of hexagonal tower
Gal: 37 x Enbut ceiling recessed downlight with hexagonal glass diffuser in reception room
Epsilon: 221 x Astoria DP FL line integrated in structure in the Grand Nave
Bega: 5 x 9480 projector for emergency use in the forum
Simes: 24 x Megazip ceiling recessed downlight (waterproofed) under the tube 1 (outdoor)
Gagni: 12 x Lux flat projector loading zone
Comatelec-Schreder: 42 x Neos 3 flat projector mounted on facade to light up roof; 42 x RT 3 box shape projector mounted on wall and tubes to light up roof; 37 x RT 2 box shape projector mounted on wall and tubes to light up roof; 39 x Focal Projector mounted on side of tubes and top of roof
Sill: 24 x Outdoor wall light Mini spot mounted on the hexagonal tower structure
Targetti: 8 x Exterior Mini LC Bollard parking area
Bega: 50 x 8039 Ground recessed spot around Studio de Creation
Eliatech: 52 x - FL tube emergency stairs
Waldmann: 14 x RL40 FL tube central stairs


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