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Restaurant At The Pompidou Centre, Jakob + MacFarlane (Paris, France)

In the wake of the Pompidou Centre’s facelift, the museum has acquired a new roof-top cafe/restaurant - not before time, for the views over the city from the sixth floor by no means compensated for the unspeakable squalidity of the previous establishment

Called Le Georges, the new one is the work of the youthful practice of Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane. Delight and a sense of surreal fantasy were always induced by ascending the monumental exterior of the building. (Sadly, now that you have to queue and pay to use the escalator, the pleasure is diminished and the lift to the sixth floor is quicker.)

Both these sensations are revived by sight of the restaurant. Le Georges, seating 200 people (and another 150 outside on the terrace) is an extraordinary dream-like creation that sits lightly on its site, literally and metaphorically.

This is no mean feat on the part of the architects, given the dominating power of Piano and Rogers’ architecture. Without succumbing, Jakob and Macfarlane acknowledge it, extemporizing on form - the great funnels of the building - and on the dominant colours.

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Encompassed by the panorama of Paris, the restaurant under Pompidou’s coloured ducting is a cool volume of silvery light in which enormous Arp-ian structures billow out of an aluminium floor, their gaping mouths glowing with coloured luminance.

But rather than extensions of the centre’s sculpture collection, which is what they seem at first sight, these objects contain the various functions of the restaurant. The largest of them encloses the kitchen (which reverses the present trend for exposing culinary activities to view). Others contain a cloakroom and lavatories, a video bar and a private dining room.

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The interior of each one is coated with coloured rubber, the colours taken from the ducting and cabling overhead but rendered softer and silkier by the material. So the lavatories are jade green, the bar is yellow, and the kitchen grey.

The exception is the private room which is regularly used by the Centre’s administration for private parties. This is red, in memory of its temporary quarters while the building was being overhauled. Evolution of the design began with adopting the basic BOO x BOOmm grid of the Centre’s architecture, which occurred in floor panels of the terrace and which the architects carried inside. To cope with the thinness (140mm) of the existing floor slab and consequent limitation on weight, and with the slab’s movement, a floating floor was installed.

Made of light cement with a peripheral steel channel, it is supported around the edges of the concrete slab by sprung feet. Over this went a covering of 4m square panels of aluminium, thin and light reflective. Aluminium’s lightness and malleability suggested the idea of treating the covering fabric capable of billowing out of the grid.

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Once conceived, the four organic forms, their frames modelled using computers, were covered with a thin aluminium skin. This restaurant, run by the Costes brothers, should add to enjoyment of the Pompidou and, for that matter, of Paris.

The direct lift makes it possible to open it at night, when the luminosity of the great organic forms - which adds much to the luminance of the place by day - really co into its own. There is humour in this design, the references to Pompidou are playful, and no doubt the architects would want to acknowledge a debt to Frank Gehry. P. M.

Architect Jakob + Mac Farlane, Paris
Project architects Dominique Jakob, Brendan MacFarlane, P. Gardara, P. Macaigne, A. Duvivier, E. Cheong, B. Douliery, O. Leroy
Structural engineer RFR
Lighting consultant Isometrix
Furniture Cappellini (design Jakob+ MacFarlane)
Lighting I Guzzini (design Jakob + MacFarlane)
Photographs Archipress

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