It is, by any standards, a hard act to follow. When the original Pompidou Centre, designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, opened in the heart of Paris nearly 30 years ago, it was pioneering in more than one sense.
As well as propelling its architects into the international limelight, its epic presence and the shock of the new had a huge impact not just on Paris and the art world but on cities around the world. Arguably, it created the momentum for iconic, contemporary galleries and museums without which no major metropolis now feels complete.
But now the Pompidou itself – which draws in six million visitors a year – is branching out. Next Tuesday, construction work begins on the new Centre Pompidou-Metz, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Situated around 200 miles east of Paris and close to the borders of Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, the city of Metz will be graced with the Pompidou's first outpost and another extraordinary architectural emblem.
The building that Ban has designed for Metz was partially inspired by a Chinese peasant's hat which the architect found in a Parisian market. To Ban, the woven bamboo of the hat suggested a kind of architectural canopy which set him on a train of thought that eventually led to a vast, luminescent, conical roof that will tie the various elements of the new Pompidou together. Ninety metres wide, this sinuous crown will be made up of a timber frame woven into a hexagonal lattice and then coated in a fibreglass membrane topped with a layer of Teflon.
"It was not so much the shape of the hat that interested me but the way that it was made," says Ban, talking at his temporary European office perched on the roof of the original Pompidou Centre. "It was not only the pattern but the structure itself, which is very light but can span big distances.
The design of this building may look quite complicated but it's really very simple. The different spaces of the museum itself – the galleries, the 'nave', offices – each have their own appropriate shape and are clearly defined and then the roof brings them all together."
For Ban, Metz is the culmination of decades of experiment with structure and materials. He is one of the most original thinkers in contemporary architecture, best known for buildings with both a lightness of touch and unconventional building blocks. He has famously used cardboard and paper tubes to build disaster relief shelters on the one hand and churches and museums on the other.
His Naked House in Japan lights up like a lantern, with walls made of translucent layers of polycarbonate sheeting with the sublime quality of rice paper – one of a series of ground-breaking homes. The temporary office on top of the Pompidou Paris is also made of paper tubes, coated in the same fibreglass membrane that will soon be seen at Metz.
Ban's capacity to think beyond both fashion and tradition, like a modern-day Buckminster Fuller, has brought him international commissions not just in the Far East but also in America – where he went to study in the late 1970s – and Europe. So the pressure of designing a new Pompidou, with the example of the original floating in the background, seems perfectly appropriate for a man who has founded his work upon individuality and experimentation.
"Of course, the Pompidou is a very influential building," says Ban, who is collaborating on Metz with his French partner Jean de Gastines.
"I came to Paris to see it in 1978, a year after it opened, and admired it very much. But with Pompidou-Metz, any reference to the original is really in the spirit of invention or innovation, not the shape of the building or the design itself. When I entered the competition to design the museum, I thought that it was a very appropriate project for me because of the history of innovation and architectural evolution established by Rogers and Piano."
With this new £27 million building, Ban has created a series of contrasts between the fixed and the flexible, the open and the closed. The cone-like canopy, reaching upwards to meet a 250ft central spire, envelopes three giant concrete tubes stacked on top of one another, each pointing in different directions.
These are the galleries themselves, with vast picture windows at each end framing views of the nearby station – which will soon host a new high-speed TGV link to Paris – and the cathedral, as well as the hills around Metz and the 20–hectare park surrounding the museum.
There will also be a vast, cathedral-like "nave" or massive central hall, capable of holding larger art works, as well as the entrance forum, auditorium, offices, restaurant and other service spaces. Many of these spaces – unlike the more regulated galleries – can be adapted for a variety of uses and, in places, opened up to the surrounding parkland.
'We were asked to position the museum in this huge green area, so I asked a landscape designer to design the park and put the roof on top of this garden, so that outside space could be brought right into the building," says Ban. "Usually, an architect first designs an object and then a landscape designer plants trees around it. We reversed this process so there will be a strong connection with the park and nature. I wanted a building that is totally exposed to the outside."
Helped by the lightness of the canopy roof, Pompidou-Metz will have some of the feeling of a pavilion or marquee sitting among the parkland when it opens in late 2008. It is a pavilion that is already a catalyst for major new development across the city and a place where the Pompidou Centre can show more of its remarkable collection.
And for Ban, it will be a major cultural project that will open up his work to a whole new audience.