The ceiling above the ceiling
July 30, 2013 5:52 PM   Subscribe

When and how did exposed ductwork along the ceiling become "a thing" in interior design for restaurants and shops? I'm fairly certain you didn't see this sort of modern touch in the 1950's, so something happened between then and now where this became more common and I'm really curious as to how it came about. Any interior design/architecture buffs out there know the answer?
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I really want to know the answer to this, too, because I've been wondering the same thing lately. In some of the places I've seen this exposed ceiling junk, it looks like they just ripped out a dropped ceiling, and went with whatever they found behind it.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The who (you didn't ask) is Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. The archetypal project is the Centres Georges Pompidou, which is an early, perhaps the first constructed example of architectural functionalism. The when is the late 70s, though since it was high culture, it took some time to propagate in popular design aesthetics east and west.

Exposed structural and mechanical elements are surprisingly expensive, so don't be offended if you see them done badly.
posted by vers at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't know much about architecture, but my instinct is to say the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris as well. When I visited there many years ago, I remember learning that it was called "a building turned inside out" (or the French equivalent) when it opened. The design was apparently considered quite daring and not readily accepted.
posted by Leontine at 6:45 PM on July 30, 2013

I wonder if it's not also an extension of the "loft" aesthetic. In many cases, in lofts that have been genuinely repurposed from industrial spaces, it's likely the old dropped ceilings were just ripped out; now that the loft look is so trendy, though, I am sure builders and developers are building it in from the start.
posted by devinemissk at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

To continue vers' comment above, it is expensive to expose structural elements because they are fiddly and often very messy, particularly when it was never originally intended that they be exposed. It takes a lot of effort and time to neaten them up and that costs money.

I'm typing this from a room that has just had a ten year old wall fascia stripped off. What is exposed is technically "exposed services" but you'd never let the public see it like this.
posted by deadwax at 8:28 PM on July 30, 2013

If you have to add in new ducting and plumbing anyhow, old wood and brick can sometimes give a nice loft look with a good powerwashing.
posted by yohko at 9:35 PM on July 30, 2013

One of the large auditoriums in the UN includes this kind of exposed pipes and ducts, and was designed in the 40s or 50s.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:05 PM on July 30, 2013

There's an article on exactly this in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

The writer (the paper's excellent food critic) reasons that it's related to diners generally being younger, and preferring large, open spaces.
posted by colin_l at 8:07 AM on July 31, 2013

For an overview on Structural Espressionism which mentions the Pompidou Centre as an important example:
posted by citygirl at 12:28 PM on July 31, 2013

When they have these kind of ceilings in restaurants, are there any guidelines as to how and when to wash and/or dust the pipes? I get creeped out when I look up and see a layer of dust on the top half of all that stuff.
posted by CathyG at 5:24 PM on July 31, 2013

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