Imagine a building inspired by a hat? Visitors to France can now trek to the remote northern city of Metz where they will find a branch of the famed, Pompidou museum. Its architect, Shigeru Ban of Japan, claims to have been inspired to create this roof shape after purchasing Chinese hat in Paris. The roof of the building was built with hexagonal wooden pieces, achieving the visual effect associated with the cane-work pattern of the classic Chinese hat shape. But for people who don’t care to discuss architectural inspiration and materials, the building looks like one of those Smurf houses, a giant mushroom growing out of the foundation.
This building is of course just the latest example in a long line of museums with futuristic designs. Several years ago the Milwaukee Art Museum was extended with the Quadracci Pavilion designed by another famous architect, Santiago Callatrava creating his artistic mark on the landscape. The pavilion has a sail-like feature on the roof with a 217 foot wingspan that opens daily – though it isn’t known to flap about in the wind. Then there are the Frank Gehry buildings from the Weisman in Minneapolis to the Getty in Los Angeles and the famed Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.
In all cases there is the argument that it’s arrogant for the building to overshadow the works of art contained within them. Nevertheless, once they were built, people came. In Bilbao, once described as a grimy little city now has more than a million visitors annually. Perhaps the hat-shaped museum will invigorate Metz, France. But for his part the architect says he continues to work with new materials including ship containers, cardboard tubes and paper. Someone lovingly dubbed his paper buildings, “pulp non-fiction.”
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