Topped with a Teflon and wooden roof, the new outpost of the Pompidou Centre in Metz has been compared to a mushroom, a Chinese hat, a Smurfâ€™s house and a circus tent. It is also, however, a key part of an ambitious plan to use art to revive the fortunes of the impoverished rust belt of eastern France.
President Sarkozy, who inaugurated the centre yesterday, hailed the opening of a venue that contains 780 works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, MirÃ³, Braque, Chagall, Brancusi and Giacometti as a ground-breaking move towards cultural decentralisation and a renaissance of the region.
The Pompidou Metz cost â‚¬86 million (Â£73 million) and was designed by Shigeru Ban, the Japanese architect, and Jean de Gastines, his French counterpart, to mark contemporary minds, just as the Paris Pompidou marked the 1970s.Unlike the the original Pompidou Centre in central Paris, designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers and opened in 1977, the pipes on this one are on the inside, and the architects insist there will be no teething troubles.
There should be no shortage of masterpieces to display, since the Paris Pompidou owns 65,000 modern artworks, most of which are kept in storerooms for lack of exhibition space.
â€œFrance is proud to be no doubt one of the few countries able to find the means to create investments of this importance in the middle of a crisis,â€ said Mr Sarkozy. â€œWhat is at stake here is no more or less than a new renaissance of the Lorraine.â€
The region, hit by the decline of its traditional metal and mining activities, hopes the museum will lift eastern France in the way that the Guggenheim museum has transformed Bilbao in northern Spain, a run-down city that has become a cultural hub.
I can see the smurf-esque form in this; I can't see it as being as daring as it's Parisian namesake which does have impact in contrast to its surroundings.