After an extensive six-year restoration project spearheaded by h2o architectes and Snøhetta, the Maritime Museum in Paris has finally reopened its doors to the public. Visitors can now once again explore the rich maritime history and immerse themselves in the captivating exhibits of this iconic museum.
The new museum’s design showcases elegant curves and circular shapes, harmonizing perfectly with the existing architectural structure while subtly paying homage to the graceful flow of water. This dynamic architectural movement not only enhances the circulation and connectivity between different spaces but also encourages a more seamless and fluid interaction within the museum.
The Musée national de la Marine stands as the primary institution in France dedicated entirely to the rich maritime history of the country. Within its walls, a remarkable collection of paintings, models, and maritime artifacts is proudly displayed, offering a captivating glimpse into the nation’s seafaring heritage.
Situated within the historic Palais Chaillot, a building that dates back to 1878 and underwent renovations by architects Carlu, Boileau, and Azéma for the 1937 World’s Fair, the museum holds a special place in history. Its heritage status ensures its protection and preservation for generations to come. Collaborating closely, h2o architects and Snøhetta have breathed new life into the building, establishing a profound connection between its past construction phases and a contemporary vision of the maritime world and its challenges.
To enhance the visitor experience, a historic staircase from the original 1878 project has been reopened, seamlessly integrated into both the temporary and permanent exhibit itineraries. These spaces are thoughtfully opened to the outside world, serving the dual purpose of recreating the volumes of the 1937 design and anchoring the museum within its surrounding environment. This creates a streamlined journey for visitors, allowing them to explore the museum’s treasures with ease and immerse themselves in the captivating maritime history it holds.
Casson Mann, the renowned museum and exhibition design practice, has truly transformed the Musée national de la Marine into an extraordinary visitor experience. Their innovative approach was inspired by the museum’s original curving galleries, resulting in a scenography that captures the essence of the sea and brings it to the heart of Paris.
The new visitor experience is nothing short of captivating, offering multiple pathways that guide visitors on an immersive and intuitive journey. Just like the ebb and flow of waves, the design seamlessly blends contemporary elements with the existing ones, breathing new life into the institution’s rich history. It’s a harmonious coexistence of the past and the present, transporting the imagination of visitors beyond the museum’s walls to distant shores.
The adventure begins in the intimate and serene atmosphere of the vestibule, gradually immersing visitors into the enchanting world of the museum. As they venture further, they find themselves in the luminous and spacious full-height hall, a true centerpiece that grants direct access to various services within the museum. From exhibit spaces to a restaurant, bookshop, boutique, seminar rooms, and an auditorium, everything is conveniently located for visitors to explore.
The design also cleverly incorporates transparency, allowing glimpses of the Galerie Davioud’s graceful curves, reminiscent of its original 1937 layout. This transparency also reveals the newly created mezzanine levels, which house a pressroom, members’ lounge, and exhibition space. A double wall serves as a functional transitional space, discreetly concealing technical devices required for exhibit installation while maintaining the museum’s thermal envelope.
Casson Mann’s vision has truly transformed the Musée national de la Marine into a captivating and accessible experience. It’s a testament to their creativity and dedication to creating immersive environments that transport visitors to new realms of discovery.
The reopened staircase streamlines the visitor experience by creating multiple possible pathways between the plaza and garden levels. The position of the building, nestled in the hillside between the Trocadero Plaza and Gardens, is revealed through punctual façade openings and the creation of an oculus in the end pavilion, which establishes a visual connection between the two levels.
“Snøhetta is honored to have contributed to the reinvention of the iconic Musée National de la Marine and the renewal of its important heritage of France’s relationship with the world’s oceans, which ultimately connect us all,” says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, Founding Partner and Architect, Snøhetta. “The collaboration with h2o architectes and their understanding of French history and built heritage has been a true source of inspiration. We now look forward to seeing the public make the museum’s spaces their own and rediscover the vast collections that the institution houses. This will reaffirm the museum’s important role in creating a contemporary perception of history, providing a deeper perspective on the future.”