Japanese architect crowns French museum with 'Chinese hat'

Wandering around a Paris craft shop one day in 1989, Shigeru Ban came across a Chinese bamboo hat.

Picking it up, the Japanese architect was intrigued by its design.

"I was amazed by the combination of the materials, the woven bamboo as a structure, the paper as waterproofing, and dried leaves underneath as insulation," he told AFP. "Just like the combination for a building's roof."

Twenty years on, the headwear stars in Ban's latest, most ambitious design: a new branch of France's top modern art museum, the Pompidou Centre.

It opens on Wednesday in the northern city of Metz, with a roof resembling a huge floppy Chinese hat.

"This is the biggest project I have ever done," said Ban, whose previous designs have included emergency shelters for refugees in countries including Rwanda and, recently, earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

"I have designed many other smaller buildings to study this kind of roof... but nobody has designed such a big timber roof," he told AFP at his office near the original Paris Pompidou Centre.

"It's the biggest Chinese hat ever."

The original Pompidou Centre draws in millions of visitors a year, sucking them up the glass tubes of its facade - a design by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers seen as outlandish and caused a stir when it opened in 1977.

"The Pompidou Centre is a very special contemporary art museum and because of this famous building there was big pressure for me" in designing the new branch, Ban said.

His wooden roof sits above a ground floor facade of glass shutters that can open in warm weather to draw in visitors. In between lie three elevated shoebox-shaped galleries, the window of the top one framing a view of Metz.

"I wanted to find something contextual, instead of designing a building which can exist anywhere in the world. I wanted to connect the art museum to the city," Ban explained.

The Paris museum's novel appearance was intended to be "totally opposite... to the surrounding buildings," he explained. "I'm not saying which is better. But I think that my design is really appropriate for Metz."

The new museum has 5,000 square metres (107,000 square feet) of gallery space for rarely seen works by the likes of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

The Pompidou has a vast collection of modern art but limited wall space at its Paris home obliges it to keep thousands of its treasures hidden. The Metz venue's eight-metre ceilings allow huge canvases such as Matisse's "The Sadness of the King" to be freed from storage.

The Pompidou joins other world-class museums such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim in looking to open its collections to new audiences by planting new branches elsewhere.

The so-called "antenna" museums aim to regenerate the surrounding regions as the Guggenheim did in Bilbao, an industrial city in northern Spain, which opened in 1997 with an avant-garde design by US-based architect Frank Gehry.

Metz hopes that its new museum will likewise boost the fortunes of a town traditionally known as an army base, which is set to see thousands of military jobs disappear due to restructuring.

"The Pompidou will radically change the image of Metz in France and in Europe," said the former mayor of the city, Jean-Marie Rausch, who helped launch the project. He forecasts the museum will get 400,000 visitors a year.

Meanwhile another northern French city, the former mining town of Lens, is preparing to receive its own outlet of world-class art when the Louvre - Paris's most visited museum - opens a sister branch there in 2012.

The Louvre Lens is also designed by Japanese architects - Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the Tokyo-based firm Sanaa.

They were not available for an interview but their plans foresee a series of rectangular buildings, contrasting strongly with Ban's hexagonal floating hat.

Ban refused to comment on the design for the other museum.

"I never take a look at the designs of others," he said. Neither did he discuss his own design with two acquaintances of his, the original Pompidou architects Piano and Rogers, he added. "An architect doesn't do that."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor