Modern structures: The Metallic Language of the Pompidou Centre

The Metallic Language of the Pompidou Centre

In their modern form, as structural ‘skeleton’ for a building, steel frames achieved great prevalence in twentieth-century architecture, a position they continue to hold today.

A quick reading of Pompidou’s ‘metallic’ language:
Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano | Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1971-77
1 Lift

A vertical transportation device, essentially an enclosed platform moved up and down by mechanical means, either by a system of pulleys a ‘traction lift’ or hydraulic pistons (a ‘hydraulic lift’).

2 Steel tie beam

A horizontal beam between two adjacent piers.

3 External escalator

A moving staircase formed from a motor-driven chain of steps. Usually found inside a building’s envelope, here it is attached to the steel exoskeleton.

4 Steel pier

A pier is an upright member providing vertical structural support. Here it is formed from steel.

5 Diagonal braces

Angled members that create a system of triangles to provide additional bracing to a rectilinear structure. The additional of diagonal members to a steel framed structure is known as ‘triangulation’.

6 Glass curtain wall

A curtain wall is a non-loadbearing enclosure or envelope of a building, attached to the structure but standing separate from it. Glass has the benefit of allowing light to penetrate deep into a building.

7 Steel Frame

A steel frame composed principally from series of vertical and horizontal members. Here, the steel frame forms an exoskeleton with a series of steel p1ers supporting the building interior. A further layer of external steel framework supports various service ducts, escalators, stairs, and lifts.

A staircase that runs the full length of the building, included facilitating evacuation during an emergency such as fire.

Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano | Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1971-77

In the Centre Georges Pompidou the modern steel frames are typically composed of a network of steel posts, occasionally tubular and filled with concrete, which supports horizontal beams. This structure is at some points strengthened by further diagonal members. Corrugated steel sheets, on to which concrete is poured to provide floors as well as structural rigidity, usually sit on top of this structural framework. Sometimes, the corrugated sheets are omitted in favour of precast concrete panels. While steel is used because of its strength and comparative resistance to erosion, it is susceptible to fire, which could lead to structural failure, for this reason, steel frameworks are usually encased in concrete or sprayed with insulating fibre to protect them from heat.