---- by John Armitage
  The Centre Georges Pompidou (constructed 1971-7) is a building complex in the Beaubourg area of Paris, France. Exhibiting a postmodern, high-tech, architectural design, the Centre houses a bibliothèque (library), the Musée National d'Art Moderne and a centre for cultural research. Owing to its location, the Centre is known to Parisians as Beaubourg. It is named after Georges Pompidou, President of France (1969-74), and was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by the then French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The Beaubourg has had millions of visitors since its opening.
  The Beaubourg project was awarded to a creative team led by the Italian and British architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in an architectural design competition in 1971. The design of the Beaubourg revolutionised the architecture world, with Rogers especially securing a global reputation as a high-tech iconoclast on its completion, particularly given the Beaubourg's exposed frame of coloured pipes and automated systems. The Beaubourg thus transformed the city museum, converting former privileged monuments into popular sites of culture and leisure. All the operative structural elements of the Beaubourg are colour-coded: green for plumbing, blue for climate control, yellow for electrical networks and red for circulatory elements and safety mechanisms.
  Baudrillard's 'The Beaubourg Effect: Implosion and Deterrence' (SS) contributed to the postmodern architectural revolution by critiques of the Beaubourg 'machine' or 'thing', of this anonymous mystery, this corpse of fluctuation, symbols, systems and circuitry. Baudrillard argues that the mission of the Beaubourg is to enable 'the final impulse', which is not simply the transformation of a nameless structure but the individualisation of social life and its irretrievably bottomless implosion. He sees little hope for social relations when the Beaubourg is devoted to information and surface aeration, simulation, media and self-supervision.
  The impact of Baudrillard on architecture fluctuates, but the effect of the Beaubourg on Baudrillard was prolonged. For the Beaubourg is a shrine to mass simulation. He defines its three functions: incineration, monumentalism and convection. The Beaubourg consumes cultural energy; it is the black monolith of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey; it is the mad convection of its merely apparent substance. These annihilations also affect the neighbourhood. The Beaubourg is purely a defensive precinct, resolutely postmodernised and sanitised by means of its condescending design. Figurative industrial terms dominate Baudrillard's Beaubourg: it is a 'machine for making emptiness' similar to nuclear power stations manufacturing menace. Or it is a system of maximum security, a radiant shield, a sector of comprehensive control and slow-moving territorial deterrence. Technology and ecology, economics and geopolitics are the constituents of this cultural colossus. It is a totalitarian model of security and prevention, a nuclear inflected station whose matrices encompass the social field. Yet this model of deterrence also offers a space to challenge global control, to interrogate the symbols of peaceful coexistence, to consider atomic risk and to contemplate the Beaubourg's cultural fission and political prevention measures.
  For Baudrillard, then, the Beaubourg's flow of liquids is uneven. Certainly, high-tech aeration, cooling, electrical systems and the customary fluids surging there indicate perfect functionality. But the transfer of people through the Beaubourg is uncertain and the outdated escalators inside synthetic sheaths must be questioned. Why do we think of this ornate drama in terms of fluids? What is the basis of innovation at the Beaubourg? The question of the Beaubourg is thus the question of propulsion. The Beaubourg in its immobility is a fabricated cultural factory, of objects, of books and of internal spaces. Baudrillard is therefore engrossed in the Beaubourg's movements and incoherence, in its fluids and its modes of transmission. In The Conspiracy of Art (2005b) he criticises the consequences and contradictions of the Beaubourg through the activities of its personnel, its assignment to absolutely circulatory interior spaces and its lack of private work stations. Baudrillard questions the movements of Beaubourg's personnel, its exaggerated fashionable mannerisms and its lithe adjustment to the structures of this postmodern space rather than its stationary or existential condition.
  Critics of Baudrillard's Beaubourg might ask what the demand for an architectural analysis of the building's personnel and structural postmodern spaces alerts other commentators to. Sat in their non-existent space, Beaubourg's personnel are perhaps an analogy of Baudrillard's philosophy. Does his concentration on Beaubourg's personnel, on its tiredness, simulated isolation and its spaces, offset the building's immense ploy of deterrence? For Baudrillard, Beaubourg's personnel employ cultural energy as a means of personal resistance. Remarkably, very similar contradictions typify the Beaubourg 'thing'. Is the Beaubourg 'thing' purely a movable exterior that substitutes modishness and postmodern architecture for a static interior that continues to uphold modern cultural values? How are the Beaubourg's spaces of deterrence and dogmas of visibility related to the translucent and polyvalent, to the consensual and the tangible? Baudrillard argues that we must move beyond our contemporary obsession with security if we are to re-establish genuine social relations. He proposes that the whole of social discourse is embodied in the Beaubourg, a discourse that permits the treatment of 'culture' and its contradictions, its precise intentions, to shift into possibilities not controlled by Beaubourg 'things'. Baudrillard contends that no Beaubourg 'thing', in thought or in steel and glass, is as monumental as postmodernity would have us believe. Indeed, the Beaubourg's postmodernity is produced by entrenched modern ideas, logics and orders that are lacking critical thought. There is no evading this truth at the Beaubourg for Baudrillard, but this truth must be considered, constructed and experienced from the perspective of the Beaubourg's process of developing into an uncontainable apparatus, which, by way of its own achievements, somehow manages to flee from modern thought and the rules of the established order.
  Baudrillard'sreflectionsonthecontradictionsandstateoftheBeaubourg have been prominent in postmodern cultural theory, but efforts to utilise them on similar buildings are neither many nor entirely successful. However, Baudrillard's account of the empty interior of the Beaubourg can usefully be compared with Fredric Jameson's description of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles (see Gane, 1991b).
   § architecture
   § art
   § masses
   § postmodernism / postmodernity

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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