Exposing Infrastructure in the Works

Pompidou Center - Paris Source: Pompidou Center

A finely constructed house or building hides the vast majority of its inner parts. Like the skin on a body, typically either a drywall or plaster are constructed to conceal a complex web of plumbing pipes and joints, electrical wiring and outlets. A  crisscross of ductwork used to feed heating, air conditioning and ventilation runs.

Such concealment is not always common today. The ceiling components in many new stores and restaurants – once discreetly hidden by a drop-ceiling grid containing 2’ x 4’ panels – now reveal a run of girders, PVC pipes and smartly painted ductwork for the HVAC system.

Colorado Architect Doug Eichelberger says his first memory of encountering exposed infrastructure was the Pompidou Center in Paris, named after then president, Georges Pompidou. Opened in 1977, the center is famous for its structure.

It’s distinctive architecture depicts all of the air ducts, water pipes, electrical lines, etc. on the outside of the building. It is an interesting example of visual mapping. Each building could be mapped with its pipes and electrical lines that are usually hidden within the walls.

The Pompidou Center shows all of these lines and pipes painted in different colors so that one can distinguish them; the air ducts are painted blue, water ducts are green, electricity lines are yellow and staircase and elevators are red.  “The building’s structure is turned completely “inside out” and even the steel beams that hold the construction together are visible on the outside.” [try to find the person who quoted this in the article. If it’s the writer of the article. Use that as a source. ]

Kenosha, WI Visitor's Center, designed by PSI Design

New aesthetics come into play by exposing infrastructure – dramatic new lines and spaces are created and light is allowed to play in new spaces. Apart from aesthetics is the issue of money. Exposing infrastructure can establish cost savings in two ways:

First, the cost of installing a ceiling or wall skin is eliminated, second, by eliminating skins or wall curtains, access to heating, plumbing or electrical components is made far easier, and the expense of repairing a hole in the wall or ceiling is removed.

Bold in design thinking, there are also green considerations that can be weighed for designing with exposed infrastructure, especially for those hating to waste too much in the way of materials or the energy required for assembling them.

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