On our second day of gloom and rain, we decided to lift our spirits with modern art at the Centre Pompidou. We hopped on the metro and joined the line of umbrellas braving the downpours for free admission to the national museum on the first Sunday of the month. Inside, we made a beeline for the café for some hot coffee to warm our bones and let our damp selves dry. Sitting on the mezzanine I was finally able to look up and observe the building.  Lonely Planet described the Centre Pompidou designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers as having been built “inside-out.” All mechanical ducts and other often hidden elements of buildings are instead; put on display, as an exhibition themselves.

 


The structure supporting the immense open atrium was composed of tube sections, which complimented the blue colored round mechanical ducts. We could feel the mezzanine structure slightly vibrate with the increasing number of coffee patrons. People lined the inside of the atrium, hugging and resting against the railings to take refuge from the relentless rain. Lights hung from tracks in the ceiling, blending in with the lines created by the suspension system for the stairwells. The indoor elevators were glass and the outdoor escalator system was covered but clear – all giving the impression of the museum being alive and constantly in motion. The winding line outside was alive with the colorful shades of umbrellas against the dark grey wet cobblestones; we too were taking shelter from the ominous outdoor sky.

The Centre Pompidou stood exposed to the elements – vulnerable and unwavering – which reminded me of the Eiffel Tower. In a way, both structures were made more available for criticism because of its increased and detailed visibility. For the Eiffel Tower, each connected iron piece combined to form this overwhelming iconic tower to blatantly stand in the face of opposition. These two unique structures are vastly different from their predecessors in that we can see straight through to their insides; they are not covered by enormous façades full of detail.

After two days of rain, the sun appeared as we reach the hilltop location of the Sacré Couer. The panoramic views of the city grew more and more vast the higher we climbed. Some sections of the city were covered in darkness from the looming storm clouds, creating a beautiful contrast to the adjacent sections bathed in sunlight. Sitting inside the church I craned my neck to observe the entirety of the design, comforted by the faint smell of incense floating through the church. The Sacré Coeur is made of tons of little pieces (also like the Eiffel Tower), resembling its own mosaic, complimented by the stained glass that makes each window.

The air inside was filled with ever-changing, vibrant colored rays of light. The stained glass glowed from the stubborn sun. Yellows, blues, greens, and reds softly rested on the stones casting brilliant patterns. I felt I could learn a lot from the stained glass. From the outside, the colors are muted, dull, barely visible, disguising the radiance within.  The changing colors warmed me - they reminded me that even without sun, they were able to shine. Even with storm clouds brewing, they still glowed in the natural, grey light.

Sitting in the church with Denae, we talked about what inspired us from the church. That conversation reminded me that in design, you never know which detail, which aspect will inspire and speak to people. We all are affected differently, which makes traveling with someone so exciting. It has served as a constant reminder of different points of view and made me realize all characteristics of a design are important. 

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