The new Musee de la Romanitee Narbonne is clean-lined and classic in form, its overhanging canopy casting welcome shade over a generous public plaza. This is the winning scheme in an international competition for the project, devised by Foster + Partners in collaboration with interior designer and museum specialist Adrien Gardere.
An expansive collection of over 1,000 ancient stone relief funerary blocks discovered in the local area will be proudly displayed within the museum, lending a personal edge to the French port’s archaeological history. The town of Narbonne is recognised for the vast quantities of ancient relics, archaeological sites and building legacies found in the local vicinity, with this latest museum dedicated to the exhibition of Roman artefacts.
Senior Partner and Head of Design at Foster + Partners, Spencer de Grey, explains: “We have been inspired by the setting, by Narbonne’s climate and by the city’s fascinating collection of Roman artefacts. The gardens will strengthen the connection with the canal and surroundings, and at their heart will be a simple, energy efficient museum building. All of the internal and even some external walls can be rearranged - its flexibility mirrors the line excavation site, a shelter to accommodate the exploration within.”
An intrinsic part of the concept is to break down the walls between the public and the archaeological work, bringing the residents of Narbonne into closer contact with their local history. As such, the barrier formed by the stacked funerary blocks separates the visitor space from the continuing work of researchers and archaeologists, with glimpses snatched of the two activity spaces through the mosaic of stone and light.
Supporting this permanent exhibition space are temporary display areas, a multimedia education centre and library, administration rooms, and restoration and storage facilities. This collective mass is engulfed in a leafy landscaped setting with a spacious public plaza, half of which is cast into shade by a concrete canopy roof which also provides thermal mass for the entire structure.