iconic architecture: georges pompidou centre by Breana Bunce

 The Pompidou seen from across the city

The Pompidou seen from across the city

”I remember once standing outside the Pompidou on a rainy day and there was a small woman with an umbrella who offered me shelter. We started talking, as one does in the rain, and she asked: 'what do you think of this building?'"

"Stupidly, I said that I designed it and she hit me on the head with her umbrella. ”

To Richard Rogers it seemed that at one point, the whole of Paris detested anyone connected to creating the Georges Pompidou Centre. 

“Young architects are immensely naive,” Rogers says. “I would never dream of (creating the George Pompidou Centre) now. We had a great client, but the press gave us hell. In seven years, there were only two positive articles. I don’t know how we got to the end.”

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But everything changed once it opened. “It was successful, even if we made very little money out of it.”

The museum and multi-disciplinary cultural centre stands out from a distance, its brightly coloured pipes transverse the skin of the building creating a distinctive facade: it proudly wears its internal structure as an external celebration. The result of this design is a staggering amount of internal flexibility.  The space inside the centre transforms on a regular basis to host a variety of different events and exhibitions. 

The now much-loved Paris landmark was designed in the 1970s by two unknown upstarts – Rogers and Renzo Piano. Now they are two of the best known names in the industry.  Piano has stayed strongly connected to building, with his office just around the corner.  He feels like the Quasimodo of Beaubourg: “Every single bolt of the building, I have a sense of why it’s there. And when I see it now I wonder how they could ever have allowed us to do something like that…Putting this spaceship in the middle of Paris was a bit mad but an honest gesture. It was brave but also a bit impolite” 

If Paris now had no such building, it would suffer more from the ossification that, in truth, is one of its weaknesses. The city would be more of a museum piece. As such, the Pompidou centre exemplifies the magically transformative nature of a great cultural icon: it is at once both popular and progressive, with the power to boost a city and change its image.

"I feel strongly there’s more to architecture than architecture. 
It is about social responsibility and politics"

Richard Rogers

digital 101: what’s the difference between AR and VR? by Breana Bunce

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You may have heard: AR and VR is changing everything in architecture. Increasingly we see people wearing goggles that take them into new, immersive digital experiences.  These digital experiences hold the key to the next major revolution in architecture, building and engineering.

But what exactly are AR and VR?

 Photo by  Scott Webb  on  Unsplash

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Augmented Reality (AR) superimposes the digital onto the ‘real world’. As such, it augments the ‘real’ with the ‘digital’. A common example is the client using their phone’s camera, to view a digital overlay of a proposed room over their exisiting room.  

Virtual Reality (VR) is a purely digital medium and often used as an immersive environment.  For example, a client uses VR ‘goggles’, to view a digital walk-through of their building. The sophistication of VR headsets vary greatly. Oculus Rift is widely thought of as the most sophisticated commercial option, however both the headsets and the design process are very expensive. Google Cardboard (as shown in the picture above) is viewed as the most financially accessible option, requiring only a smartphone and needing a lower design effort for the generation of a virtual environment.

Our industry is better positioned than most to take advantage of advances in AR and VR as most leading practitioners already do extensive digital modelling for projects. This is the perfect scaffold for creating AR and VR experiences. However, it’s important to note that these are just scaffolds. 

Client’s expectations are increasingly high when it comes to interactive and immersive environments. A significant amount of effort goes into meeting these increasing expectations. Consequently, we’re seeing new roles and new digital talent being hunted from other industries: especially game developers and animation specialists. Soon we will becoming familiar with job titles such as: Haptic Interface Designers, Immersive Reality Modellers and Chief Technology officers.

Does AR and VR have a use beyond showcasing projects to clients? The answer is a resounding yes. Leading firms are already experimenting with the use of VR as a modelling tool to identify design clashes between different disciplines: for example ensuring that architectural, structural and electrical are aligned. This allows for a more robust pre-build planning process.  In the last 10 years we have already seen a big shift in the move from design programs like Autocad to the more sophisticated modelling processes of programs like Archicad.  AR and VR will see a similar shift happen in our industry. Very soon these new virtual realities will be setting the standard for best practice. It will completely revolutionise our capability for inventive design.