Form vs. Content in the Centre Pompidou in Paris
By: Rowynn Dumont
This essay offers a brief discussion on the discourse of Kantian form vs. Hegelian content in relation to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. Can form and content coexist in one architectural entity? My argument is that the Centre Pompidou, outwardly displays Kantian form, and yet at the same time, holds Hegelian content through out it’s collective spirit.
In terms of defining form and content, for the use of argument we will use the following definitions: Eternal form, is a type of platonic form, it is essentially pure form. It is Kantian form, a form that holds line and geometric shape but without the content. Content is the ideas, concepts and history of an object. Content is Hegelian. Modernism was a celebration of form, a metaphorical shedding of the allegory. It was a time of reverence in line and shape which had never been experienced before. But you cannot have form without content. Postmodernism came along and fractured form. It changed the way people saw and were seen in their constructed theories on art, space and philosophy. Now form could be something, which could also hold content.
With this new sight it was apparent that everything has content. A box of cereal on the ground is trash, but put it on a pedestal and suddenly it has all of the history of art, theory and culture behind it. Depending on the framing of the context at which the object is observed under. As long as time exists, content will always be there. The history of form is inescapable.
One of the architectural landscapes that could be said to hold both form and content is the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. The architectural team consisting of Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, designed this complex entity in 1977. The center is considered a great achievement in the forth coming of Postmodernist Structuralism. The vision of it is both jarring and inspiring, set along the panorama of Parisian streets and colossal palace configurations. When it was first built it came as a shock to the system for Parisians and tourists alike. Le Figaro, a daily French newspaper, in reaction to the Centre stated, “Paris has its own monster, just like the one in Loch Ness.” (Silver). The building is very high tech, and futuristic in appearance. It’s skeletal like “pure form” had never been encountered in Paris before, nor has it since. The aversion passed quickly though, due to the considerable content that was laid bare in the depths of the building. A new library and one of the greatest collections of Modern, Postmodern and Contemporary art was placed within the Centre and made open to the public. The Pritzker jury said the Pompidou “revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.” (Pogrebin).
Can form and content coexist in one architectural entity? It is not only possible for them to coexist, outside of an allegorical nature, but one cannot truly exist without the other. The Centre Pompidou in Paris proves this possibility making the world a better place for it now and for future generations to come.
Pogrebin, Robin (2007-03-28). "British Architect Wins 2007 Pritzker Prize". New York Times.
Silver, Leigh. “ Everything Sneakerheads Should Know About the Centre Pompidou” Complex Art + Design. March 27, 2014. http://www.complex.com/art-design/2014/03/everything-sneakerheads-should-know-about-the-centre-pompidou/people-hated-it-at-first
Images and Content © Rowynn Dumont 2014