Born in 1841 in the Vendée, a coastal department of western France, Georges Clemenceau was a politician and journalist, who was a dominant figure in the French Third Republic and, as prime minister – a major contributor to the Allied victory in World War I. Nicknamed "Père la Victoire" (Father Victory) or "Le Tigre" (The Tiger), he left not only a legacy in the political history of France, but was engaged in the cultural life of fin-de-siècle Paris, having a long-lasting friendships with Rodin, Monet and Carrière. He was involved in the Dreyfus affair as editor of the journal L’Aurore, famous for Zola’s article “J’Accuse”, and managed to persuade Claude Monet to finish his masterpiece Nymphéas, inaugurating the rooms for display of the Water Lilies paintings in strict accordance with Monet’s wishes after his death.
Today, his native house in Mouilleron-en-Pareds is transformed into a museum, pulling his private world and public life into the public realm. The project emerged from its location, with respect to its historical structure. Designed to give the opportunity to begin a new narrative, the building seeks to uncover both its original and current purpose.
The concept proposes contemporary interventions with minimum visual compromise to the building’s original appearance. From one perspective, the architecture follows, both in compositional and museological terms, the traditional, domestic character of a house. Its essence and rustic materials are preserved, the stone is brushed, the framework is cleaned, leaving ample space for the museography. The new elements are interwoven into the visitor’s path to activate a unique experience, following the rhythm of the existing architecture.
The light is moderated to meet specific curatorial requirements, while the scenography, staircase and elevator highlight the robust materials, allowing the visitor to focus on the collections in an unobtrusive architectural environment. The contemporary concrete floor suggests the heavy modification that was carried out, simultaneously creating a uniform ambience. The museography follows the life and work of Georges Clemenceau, spreading the exhibition spaces on the two levels of the house. The traditional furniture is reinterpreted in the form of pedagogical showcases-objects, while multimedia devices illustrate the links between Georges Clemenceau’s story and our present society.
The town and its presence play a big role in the design process. To create a link with the community, the adjacent barn is reconstructed to add new programmatic opportunities for concerts, screenings and exhibitions. The gardens, a key element in the museum’s concept, are revived and actively integrated into the scheme, creating a link to the adjacent museum of Clemenceau-De Lattre. The museum reveals a new perspective on how art and architecture would benefit from each other’s challenges, unveiling the real substance of the building to its visitors, and, through its informal learning opportunities, giving a new vantage point on history and present times.