Stanton Williams transform Nantes’ fine arts museum into a vibrant and democratic art space

Musée d’arts de Nantes is unveiled to the public on 23 June 2017


The Archive building; the Palais and museum’s main entrance (the ‘Parvis’) © Hufton + Crow

The Musée d’arts de Nantes will open to the public on 23 June 2017. For this landmark cultural project, the London-based architecture practice Stanton Williams has transformed the existing Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes – an exemplary expression of the city’s civic and cultural pride and one of the largest Fine Arts Museums in France outside Paris. Located in the heart of a residential quarter in the city, the Musée des Beaux-Arts consisted of the 19th Century ‘Palais’ and 17thCentury Oratory Chapel.

Stanton Williams’ aim was to transform the introverted image of the former Musée des Beaux-Arts into a vibrant, democratic and welcoming contemporary space that is open to the city and its people. The design adds a contemporary layer to the historical buildings, with two new buildings – the ‘Cube’ extension for contemporary art and an archive facility with a public library. A new basement underneath the Palais has been created to house an auditorium, educational spaces and additional exhibition spaces. A fully integrated landscape design has also been implemented around the museum, with a new sculpture garden located within the urban block.

In response to an all-encompassing brief, Stanton Williams worked with the Museum to design the exhibitions within the galleries themselves, and also collaborated with Cartlidge Levene to create a new overall visual identity for the new Musée d’arts de Nantes. This has contributed to the formulation of a clear visual identity, which unites the museum’s exterior and interior, and creates a holistic museum experience.


An architectural model of the completed Musée d’arts de Nantes © Stanton Williams; view from
the street towards the Cube extension © Hufton + Crow

Patrick Richard, Director at Stanton Williams, leading this project, says: “We are grateful to the city of Nantes for entrusting us to transform and extend the City’s Museum of Art, design the exhibition spaces for their exceptional and valuable art collections and create galleries for temporary art installations. The new Museum has been conceived around the collections themselves, creating an intimate dialogue between art and architecture that firmly embeds the new Museum within the distinctive historical setting of the city.”


Internal view of Patio; the new walkway, with marble façade, linking the existing to museum to the extension; top lit contemporary gallery in the Cube © Hufton + Crow

On the occasion of the opening, French publishers Archibooks will launch a dedicated monograph on Stanton Williams’ transformation as part of their new series:L’esprit du Lieu. The book introduces the many facets of the building for the first time. In extensive texts, Stanton Williams, the Mayor of Nantes Johanna Rolland, the Director of the Musée d’arts de Nantes Sophie Lévy and consultants Max Fordham and Artelia will describe the concept as well as the content-related and artistic aspects of this new museum. Archival imagery and numerous illustrations complete this overview.

To mark the opening of the Musee d’arts de Nantes and to coincide with the one- year anniversary of the appointment to design the new Museum of London, Stanton Williams will host a talk on 6 June, entitled Transformation and Continuity, as part of the London Festival of Architecture. Paul Williams and Patrick Richard will discuss the relationship between memory and architecture with writer and broadcaster Tom Dyckhoff at the Museum of London.


Gallery in the Palais © Hufton + Crow


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