Just a short drive from Paris, the historic domain of Rentilly is celebrating the transformation of its old château into a brand new centre for contemporary arts.
The project was created in partnership with Frac Île-de-France (the Contemporary Art Fund of the Paris region), who put out a call for artists, challenging them to produce both an exhibition facility and an art piece on the scale of a building. Four teams were shortlisted in the competition, each bringing together an artist and an architect. The winning team comprises multidisciplinary artist Xavier Veilhan, the architectural office Bona-Lemercier, and Veilhan's frequent collaborator, stage designer Alexis Bertrand.
The design concept draws on the château's strong geometries (such as the series of ponds throughout the property's landscaped gardens), as well as the fact that the building holds no significant historic value, allowing the team the freedom to play with the structure itself. The château was in fact a replacement of the original 16th-century palace damaged during World War II, and in the words of Veilhan, was only a 'shadow of itself'.
Moving on from an initial idea of covering the entire volume with a camouflage pattern, the team found a more sophisticated way of blending the palace with the park while highlighting its iconic shape. Clad in a new skin of mirror-polished stainless steel, the building's pleats multiply and playfully reflect views of the park while equally reflective windows seem to merge with the metal surface.
The basement floor - the only part of the original building that remains intact - houses the museum lobby, as well as the storage and workshop. The rest of the interior, previously unsuitable for contemporary art shows, has been hollowed out and replaced by two 500 sq m exhibition halls, supported by a metal structure, independent to the preserved outer walls. The sloped roof was smartly redesigned to incorporate a panoramic terrace that doubles as additional exhibition space for a museum where visitors both look at the artwork as well as become an integral part of the display.