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Change for the better

It is a tribute to the talent and imagination of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano that the Pompidou Centre, their first and only collaboration, still seems so contemporary and even challenging.

It is a tribute to the talent and imagination of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano that the Pompidou Centre, their first and only collaboration, still seems so contemporary and even challenging.

But if you want a sense of just how venerable it is, you have only to look at the photos taken during construction.

Look for exapmple at this photo of the installation of the all-essential gerberettes. Never mind that the man doing the work is not wearing a hard hat. He isn’t even wearing a shirt – and he is smoking a cigarette.

The photo is immensely seductive, not least because it is in black and white. But the reality is that it has always been a dirty and dangerous business, and life spans have been sport. Today’s workers are a blander bunch, but with a better quality of life and fewer hazards threatening to cut it short. The photographs may be less dramatic, but that is a trade-off well worth making.

Ruth Slavid

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