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Cité internationale de la langue française: making French heritage a shared experience

The restoration of Château de Villers-Cotterêts has created an open cultural space that combines intelligent technology, modern aesthetics, and an innovative design narrative

Cité internationale de la langue française
By Editorial Staff -

Originally a royal residence, Château de Villers-Cotterêts has been transformed into an open cultural space designed to offer as many people as possible a knowledge-sharing experience in a structure that’s in constant dialogue with its setting. The historic château was built between 1532 and 1556 by order of François I in the department of Aisne in the Hauts-de-France region.

President Macron was behind the restoration of this monumental complex, which has a total floorspace of 23,000 m2. Work began in 2019 under the supervision of the Center des monuments nationaux (CMN) and the direction of Olivier Weets as Architect en Chef des Monuments Historiques.

The Projectiles architecture studio oversaw the museum design project as leader of a group comprising TPFIngénierie, Altia, Changement à vue, Lundi 8, CL Design, 8'18'' lumière, and Adéquat.

Cité internationale de la langue française - Projectiles © Sébastien Veronese, courtesy of Projectiles

 

Cité internationale de la langue française: a sky of words

At the heart of the Cité internationale de la langue française, which was inaugurated last fall, is the Jeu de Paume Courtyard, which welcomes visitors and directs them towards the various centers of activity, including the reception areas, exhibition halls, auditorium, bookshop-boutique, tearoom, educational labs, shared spaces, rehearsal rooms, and art studios.

This agora-like space has a glass roof. A key element of the project, the roof was designed as a “sky of words” and comprises 89 words chosen at workshop sessions with the local community. With their shadows projected on the ground, the words form changing sentences, depending on the direction they’re read and the light, and establish language as the heart of the Cité.

Cité internationale de la langue française - Projectiles © Sébastien Veronese, courtesy of Projectiles

 

The design of language

Culture in Action, the work of Antonin Artaud, forms the heart of the permanent exhibition The Adventure of French, on the first level of the Logis Royal. It’s composed of different innovative scenographic experiments, created using a variety of devices and materials, intended to offer contemplative, immersive, playful, and interactive experiences. The permanent exhibition occupies 1200 m2 divided into three sections. Its chief aim is to make the variety and richness of the French language’s tangible and intangible heritage accessible to all.

The contemporary design of the halls creates a dialogue with the historical building. Most of the furniture is made using a mineral and acrylic resin composite. The plasticity of this material opens up experimentation with an enormous variety of shapes, while its robustness and ease of maintenance make it the ideal material for long-lasting display units. The layout of the exhibition spaces is reminiscent of a theatre stage, in which visitors are simultaneously the audience and actors.

Cité internationale de la langue française - Projectiles © Sébastien Veronese, courtesy of Projectiles
 

In the southwest corner of the Jeu de Paume Courtyard is the reception and ticket office, while the bookshop-boutique, its storage spaces, and office are located to the south, between the portico and the royal staircase, just outside the permanent exhibition.

Temporary exhibitions take place in the west wing and in the Pavillon du Roi, while the café/tearoom is in the east wing, near the children’s educational lab and other mixed-use areas available to local residents and associations.

Finally, the former Jeu de Paume building, adjacent to the Logis Royal, houses a 250-seat modular auditorium, which can be set up in different configurations and is accessed from the Cour des Offices and the Jardin de la Reine.

Cité internationale de la langue française - Projectiles © Sébastien Veronese, courtesy of Projectiles

 

Light shaping the landscape

The work of 8'18'', the lighting design was an integral part of the restoration, with the dual objective of enhancing the historical and symbolic value of the complex, while underscoring its new purpose. Combining intelligent technology, modern aesthetics, and an innovative design narrative, it gives form to the interior and exterior nocturnal landscapes.

 

>>> Discover also the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Photography Centre in London

Credits

Location: Villers-Cotterêts, France
Completion: 2023
Area: 5075 m2
Maitre d'ouvrage: Centre des Monuments Nationaux

Museographic Project
Architect: Projectiles
Lighting: 8'18''
Multimedia: Lundi 8
Signage: Cl design
Stage Equipment: Changement à vue
Acoustics: Altia
Project Management: TPF ingéniérie
Economics of Scenography: Adéquat

Restoration Project
Chief Architect of Historic Monuments: Olivier Weets
Architect: LACAA, Scala, M-0
Structures: Michel Bancon and Knippers Helbig
Technical Engineering: Choulet-ITC
Safety Engineering: Cronos Conseil
Economics: Cabinet Philippe Votruba

Please refer to the individual images in the gallery to look through the photo credits

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