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With the support of the Pompidou Centre

The joys of re-useage : The Pompidou Centre Caterpillar

Publication of the study, October 2018

Make and redo the glass Architectural and programming strategies concerning the re-use of the Caterpillar glass panels at the Pompidou Centre

Architectural and programming strategies concerning the re-use of the Caterpillar glass panels at the Pompidou Centre

In partnership with the Pompidou Centre

The renovation of the Beaubourg Caterpillar
The Pompidou Centre has recently tasked a team to oversee the renovation of the Caterpillar and its decking. It is quite probable that layered windows will replace the current glass surrounding the Caterpillar.

Carbon neutrality and re-use
Supplying a new skin for the Caterpillar will currently require over 195 tons of CO², just for the 3700 m² of its glass facade, a data that does not include the emissions from all the logistics. Paris City Hall has promised a target of carbon neutrality for 2050, and has included a vision of a circular economy and re-usage in the building sector.
Some examples are the Pavillon Circulaire in front of City Hall by the Encore Heureux agency, the Matière Grise show at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in 2014, and more recently “Terres de Paris”.

The splendour of “Grey Geometry”
It therefore became crucial to 169-architecture to adopt a strategic view of the various processes of renovation that would avoid breaking up the 3700m² of girdled, strengthened glass of the current Caterpillar. These 1200 glass tiles are perfect for re-usage, being a major part of this iconic and exemplary building. Moreover, the sentimental value of this central part of the Pompidou Centre alone is inestimable. The team was certain of its appeal and was sure it would find takers to preserve this “grey geometry”, to display it in other contexts and thus reveal other aspects of this magnificent piece.
Examples: references to the Rural Studio and its Mason’s Bend Community Center; the garden gazebos made of car windschields, re-used by architects Raphaël Ménard and Frédéric Schlachet in 2004. A large panoply of second lives opens up for this glass skin.

A Parisian grammar of re-usage
Dismantling and treating these large glass tiles (stripping off existing coatings and cleaning) may tempt the companies involved to overcharge. Treating the question before it arises should help keep such increases to a minimum. These tiles are easy to pile and stock, once sorted into their different shapes. At the same time, research will be carried out for suitable architectural types, in close collaboration with 169-architecture, Elioth and Pépins Productions, to ensure finding the “right architectures” for these glass tiles. Their size and strength mean they apply to a very diversified set of potential works, a sort of “BIM of re-usage”, an exploration of geometric possibilities.

First hypothesis: Re-use for some Paris squares?
Initial analyses seem to suggest concrete proposals for renewing certain Parisian squares. The Di-Do collective, 169-architecture, Quatorze and Elioth have all won competitions to redesign and rebuild Place Gambetta and Place des Fetes in Paris.

Second hypothesis: greenhouses at the Pompidou Centre
Another category: build greenhouses on the rooves and within the walls of some of Pépins Productions’ existing projects. Pépins Productions is an association with the aim of creating local plant nurseries throughout Paris to accompany the city’s vegetalisation project, in its various districts. Locals, who grow young plants in the heart of the city, share the nurseries.
The circular economy is a central concern of the association and is in action throughout its entire production processes, from creating soil to setting up greenhouses. After having won the call to tender “Les Parisculteurs”, the association now needs to set up more greenhouses, especially on the site of the Belleville reservoir (20th district). This will be a ten-year project. The glass tiles from the Pompidou Centre would be perfect for making bioclimatic tunnels to grow young ornamental plants and flowers and to contribute to the renaissance of Paris’ horticultural traditions. 

169 is a laboratory of experimental architectural approaches, for use in urbanism of recyclable energy and the architecture of recyclable materials. 169 offers a singular approach to these fields, by bringing high quality knowledge and know-how to the issues of energy and construction. 169 adapts architectural and urban development practices to a triple constraint: lack of resources, climate change and demographic stakes.