In 2017, Snøhetta and h2o architects won the competition for the renovation of the Musée National de la Marine, the National Navy Museum in Paris. By adding a touch of novelty to one of the most significant landmarks in Paris, the architects will introduce a contemporary scenography that tells the story of the French Navy, the discovery of the oceans and life at sea. The spatial experience of the museum will be improved, and the space will be adapted to all types of museum-goers: From young children to more seasoned visitors.
The National Musée de la Marine is located the iconic Palais de Chaillot on Paris’ Right Bank. It is the main French institution entirely dedicated to the French maritime history and hosts an important collection of paintings, models and maritime artefacts. Overlooking the Eiffel Tower and the surrounding Champ de Mars on the other side of the Seine, this masterpiece of the French art deco style was conceived in 1937 by architects Carlu, Boileau and Azéma on the site of the former Palais de Trocadéro. Famous for its large esplanade separating the east and west wings of the building, the Palais Chaillot houses three museums, among them the Musée de la Marine, located in the western aisle, Aile du Passy.
By uniting old and new, the renovated museum will offer a clear and welcoming atmosphere with a more modern scenography where the story of France’s history as a seafaring nation can be told through a large collection of precious historic artefacts.
Material choices and natural and artificial lighting complement the overall museum experience by adding a modern touch to the historic interior. Wooden elements such as furniture, sliding doors and flooring echo the traditional materiality of the marine industry. Throughout the building, a careful balance of natural light and artificial light creates a more luminous and open space – all the way from the exhibition spaces to the café area, the conference center, the auditorium and the meeting rooms.
The Musée de la Marine is designed as a vaulted gallery with beautiful views overlooking the Eiffel Tower. The gallery is divided into three long elements with to head pavilions and two intermediate sections. H2o and Snøhetta’s design respects the historic features of the building while enhancing the exceptional qualities of the exhibition spaces by making them more open, adaptable and easier to navigate.
Flexible solutions, such as sliding doors, will be introduced throughout, enabling the museum to shape and change the museum experience as they please, and host wide range of different cultural activities and events.
The existing exhibition areas will be opened up to provide a lighter and more spacious museum experience.
Due to the complex shape of the building, and the fact that the museum shares an entry with the adjacent Musée de l’Homme, the new entrance will be designed to give visitor’s a clear and intuitive access to the museum and its facilities – all the way from the Trocadéro square to the depths of the museum.
The entry will also host a resource center, a museum shop and seating arrangements. A luminous ceiling made of 5,000 hanging tubes creates an intriguing atmosphere that recalls the marine underworld.
Two new mezzanines with curved glass facades will provide visitors with panoramic views overlooking the exhibition spaces, creating a better visualization of the some of the larger art pieces of the museum.
A special role will be given to the Head Pavilion, which was previously dedicated to administrative and research purposes. The space will be connected to the exhibition gallery and its floors will be opened up to create a vertical space with an exceptional view of the Seine and the Left Bank and the exhibition space itself.