Renovation of the museum, by h2o
The refurbishment project was carried out between July 2016 and October 2019. The brief was to improve the public reception area and the working environment for the staff. We set out to consolidate the structure, enlarge some of the spaces, update some of the technical installations, and also to create a connection between the various areas in order to give overall coherence to the museum. As the museum remained open to the public throughout the project, we had to work doubly hard to complete the operation without disturbing visitors or staff. The refurbishment involved work on all floors and at every level, from relaying the foundations to the design of the furnishings and the signposting, and included demolition, decontamination, and creating new floors...
Rooting the building in its site
We wanted to open the museum out towards the city again. The entrance hall has been restored to its original volume; it is once again on the same scale as the forecourt and looks out onto it. The outside doors and windows have been reinstated to create a relationship between the inside of the building and the public space. The museum follows the natural topography of the site and wherever possible, we have accentuated the dynamic of this cascade down to the Seine, while at the same time establishing links between the different levels. The new mezzanines in the entrance hall, for example, provide intersecting views and new perspectives that emphasise the stratification of the museum.
Attention – situations
The changes are noticeable as soon as you enter the building. We have redesigned the facilities for the public and removed unnecessary past additions in order to restore the legibility of the spaces, to enable fluidity for the passage of people and to provide a design adapted to contemporary uses. We immersed ourselves in the original project and repeat- edly tested it in the form of proposals that we shared with the client in order to identify the most appropriate one. The extra reception areas, the restaurant, the repositioned facili- ties as well as the areas specifically reserved for staff, were integrated into the interstices of the museum. We exploited the behind-the-scenes areas of the building to make a clear distinction between those functions that the public would see and those that would be hidden from them.
While reserving plenty of room for future appropriation, we shaped the space in such a way as to revitalise the reception area and make it easy to organise various events and activities. The building has been redesigned to be permissive and flexible, characterised by “in-betweens”, dual uses and alternative situations. A host of small things, unexpected scheduling and clarifications of future use, gave substance to the project while still leaving room for the unforeseen.
We had to engage with the vast scale of a building whose characteristic simplicity confers a generous neutrality on the artworks exhibited. The use of reinforced concrete had made it possible to create a sleek, elegant building. To give weight to the features of this architecture, the slender reinforced concrete framework was deliberately thickened out in 1937 with stone cladding, which gave the building its bulky, monumental character. We picked up on this clad architecture, and appropriated the interplay of levels, sections, and curves to enhance what already existed. The visible interventions are concentrated in the entrance hall, it brings back into view the topography of the site on which the build- ing is built. The curves of the new mezzanines lead the eye outside onto the forecourt. The project has respected the understated simplicity of the existing cladding and the marmo- real whiteness of the façades in order to ensure harmony and a degree of neutrality.
Ghost Furniture, Studio GGSV
When we consulted the museum’s archives to familiarise ourselves with the various refurbishments, we were struck by the original 1937 arrangement. There was a harmonious contrast between the monumental bareness of the architecture and the painted wooden furniture, which had a more domestic feel, creating a very particular sensation: the furniture brought a human scale to the functions of reception, orientation and service, while at the same time emphasising the majestic aspect of the architecture. Inspired by this dual- ity, we came up with the idea of evoking that furniture, of reflecting the spirit of that age, but doing so in a modern, contemporary style.
The actual design happened thanks to very productive, non-hierarchical discussions with the architects, which helped us to work out the two scales of operation at the same time so that they would properly complement each other. The refurbishment project consisted first in restoring the elegance of the architectural volumes by stripping back to what had been covered by the layers of successive alterations. By restoring the two original mezzanines, the entrance hall has become more structured and provides a fresh view of the museum and the terrace. The stairs are seen to face each other and lead naturally to the permanent exhibition rooms on the lower level, then down towards the Seine.
In resonance with the original marble and travertine, we wanted to conserve the sense of minerality by working with concrete and decorative coatings. The furnishings (the reception desk, ticket counter, and the boutique) are proportioned so as to bring them in line with the architectural reliefs. They are inspired by the architecture, blending into its minerality yet standing out from it at the same time, with fluted brass skirting at the base.
The entrance hall of the museum is principally a reception area, but it is also a place where works can be shown, a space for artistic performance or even for hospitality. So we designed furniture that can act as a discreet support for these various demands and activities – so that there can be no confusion between furniture and contemporary sculpture.
Our objective was to design unobtrusive fittings that would be appropriate to the scale of the architecture and its status – so that the furnishings are in keeping with the muse- um’s mission of receiving the public and at the same time providing a platform for artistic expression and research. In other words, so that the venue will always be a vibrant one.