The Pompidou Centre and the BPI
If you live in Paris you may well have heard the word “Beaubourg” from the mouths of stressed-out students. They mean the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information. Even if you don’t live here, the probability is that you’ve heard of the famous Pompidou Centre.
What quite a few people, and myself until fairly recently, don’t realise, is that – although the two share the same premises – they are completely different. While they might live under the same roof, the BPI has its own, independent, management. It’s a flatshare.
The Pompidou Centre is that weird-looking, inside-out building in Paris’ 4th arrondissement, just down the road from the Marais and off the busy rue de Rivoli. Yes, it stands out from the Haussmannian architecture, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think Marmite.
|thanks dave hamster!|
The centre itself is a huge exhibition hall, designed by two Italians and a Brit, and spans six levels including a rather expensive restaurant at the top. The panoramic view as you are going up the escalator is incredible, so don’t forget your camera.
At the moment, as well as their permanent gallery, the Pompidou Centre is putting on an exhibition on Salvador Dali. It’s been a big success, but also means that queues can last as long as two hours, so try to come off-peak (not Friday evening, like I did, for example). Whilst I can honestly say that no exhibition is worth waiting that long, the Dali expo is nevertheless very good (it deserves an hour’s wait, I’d say). If you are thinking of going along, bring a flask, some sandwiches and hope for good weather…
The BPI is the main public library in Paris. It’s free, and you don’t need apply for a library card. Three floors cover most subjects, from philosophy to photography. It is the go-to place for students, mainly because of its late closing time of 10 pm. On the down-side, this also means that the queues can be horrendous, and the only time you wont find people waiting outside is after 8 pm. The free and public side to the library means that the BPI provides a snapshot of Parisian society: from the occasional homeless man watching CNN to the university professor trying to finish his research paper.
So this has been your short but sweet introduction to the double-sided nature of the Pompidou Centre. Don’t make the fatal mistake of queuing for the wrong thing. It happens a lot.