The “Ecomusée de la Grande Lande” is located in the Gascogny natural park south of Bordeaux, France. The museum’s several rural sites host exhibitions of the cultural identity and history of this French region, with special insights into how the railway changed the area. The exhibition and documentary Pavilion, opened in autumn 2008, is the latest addition and signals the future direction the museum will take. Designed by architect Bruno Mader, the construction embodies the principles of sustainability and exemplifies the virtuous relationship between architecture and the environment using modernised versions of traditional materials and building techniques. An outer façade of spaced wooden strips gives the impression of a unified whole glimmering in the light. Once inside, however, the building turns out to be a series of grouped volumes, each with its own distinctive function.
The architecture harks back to the traditional rural house of the region made of wood, with a ground plan centred round the entrance. An outer skin of vertical marine-pine strips wraps around the whole pavilion protecting both roof and façades from direct sunlight. Although mediating the building’s relationship with the outside, the wooden grating still lets natural light filter through to the glazed façades behind. The entrance, located on the southwest façade, is marked out by a pergola that gives a perception of the real depth of the building.
Although the ground plan creates clear-cut divisions by function, there is ample leeway for spatial flexibility. The exhibition rooms are grouped in the west section. The rectangular space given over to temporary exhibitions is placed between the permanent gallery, with its weave of thematic islands, and the conference and screening room, a part of which has a permanent stepped floor. The result is a flexible space that can be joined to meet a variety of requirements. For example, the temporary exhibition hall with its large glazed light giving directly onto the outside, unhindered by the outer grating, can be joined to the permanent gallery and conference room in a variety of ways. Opposite, this public section is a limited-access area housing administrative offices and storage for the museum’s collections, including furniture, technical objects, valuables and fabrics. A long glazed corridor wall provides views of objects that are usually kept out of sight in other museums.
The striking feature of the architecture is the succession of flat surfaces created by the wooden envelope that makes the building seem part of the landscape. The building frame comprises glued laminated timber beams and pillars. This series of independent posts and wooden wall frames will permit future re-configurations of the façades and core building itself.