Refurbishing the Musée d’Art Moderne
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 emphasize 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 repeatedly 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 facilities 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 revitalize the reception area and make it easy to organize various events and activities. The building has been redesigned to be permissive and flexible, characterized 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 building 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 marmoreal whiteness of the façades in order to ensure harmony and a degree of neutrality.
Charlotte Hubert / Jean-Jacques Hubert / Antoine Santiard
h2o architectes is dedicated to architectural, heritage and urban creation and reprogramming.
Structured as a collective whose rich resources lie in its different identities, the office develops programs ranging in type and scale from housing to cultural amenities to public space.
Unsurprisingly, the historical and social complexity of contexts such as these has given rise to a real suppleness of approach.
The projects are purposefully open-ended, the aim being nuanced, ongoing interaction with a pre-existing setting that is at once re-examined, disrupted and enriched.
Moreover, the program itself is challenged as a means of looking beyond the initial requirements to the emergence of regenerated living spaces offering a fresh historical perspective. The formal outcome is overtly committed, providing for appropriation without necessarily specifying its character.