Redesigned Carnavalet Museum celebrates Paris

Redesigned Carnavalet Museum celebrates Paris

Chatillon Architectes, in association with Snøhetta and Nathalie Crinière’s Agence NC, have given Paris’ Carnavalet Museum a modern refresh 

The Carnavalet Museum has reopened its doors in the French capital after an extensive, four-year renovation, and it is a majestic celebration of the city of Paris – one achieved through a gentle touch that priotises respect and openness. The works, led by Chatillon Architectes, in association with Snøhetta and Nathalie Crinière’s Agence NC, focus on ‘magnifying the building’, explains the team. ‘[We had to] to reinvent everything, without changing anything.’

The museum is a long-term staple of Paris’ cultural scene, focusing on the city and its history, arts and transformations through the ages. First opening in 1880 and set mostly within two mansions, called Carnavalet and Le Peletier Saint-Fargeau, the institution had been affected by confusing layout additions and changes over the years, which meant that a redesign and refocus of its tour and narrative were becoming a pressing matter. 

The architectural team was appointed to work with the existing historical architecture, the displays, and some clever new interventions, in order to refresh the experience and create a home for the museum’s extensive collections of furniture, objects and artwork that would be fit for the 21st century. Opening up the interior, and improving accessibility and legibility of the trajectory and displays were crucial. 

‘The Carnavalet Museum is not a monument, it is a small city, or rather an ecosystem with its stratifications, its fauna of sculpture, and its flora of painting... We tiptoe around it, without uprooting anything, without moving anything, with the delicacy of a botanist,’ says architect and founder of Chatillon Architectes, François Chatillon, of the team’s challenge to respectfully rethink the museum.

Key design gestures include ‘rediscovering’ the complex’s original entrance at 23 rue de Sévigné; creating a flowing, fluid circulation plan; maintaining a visual connection with the outdoors, which was a particular challenge given the internal differences in levels and ceiling heights; and making way for whole new galleries on the first floor.

The three studios worked together on the exhibition design, aiming to create a blend of old and new that feels organic and respectful. ‘This intervention illustrates a contemporary approach that we stand for; as opposed to an architecture of rupture, it is one of historical continuity, and continuity of life,’ concludes Chatillon. §

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