In 2009 Stanton Williams won an international competition to transform the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Nantes into a democratic and welcoming contemporary museum open to the City and its people.
Stanton Williams have renovated the existing ‘Palais’ building and the links to the 17th Century Chapelle de l'Oratoire, both located in the heart of an urban, residential quarter in the city, and part of the existing museum complex. Two new buildings have also been designed: the ‘Cube’, an extension to the Palais with four levels of galleries for contemporary art; and the Archive building, a new documentation and graphic arts centre. In addition, a new basement has been excavated under the museum, creating new teaching spaces, an auditorium, restoration and conservation workshops, and an exhibition room known as the Salle Blanche. The old and new buildings all sit around a new a sculpture garden and the ‘Cours Jules Dupré’ walkway.
Stanton Williams design intends to transform the image of the quarter itself and open up the Museum to the public, and to create a coherent cultural and architectural journey, that would fulfil the need to unify several disparate buildings. The architectural design for the gallery spaces is intended to highlight the artworks while providing the best possible conditions for their conservation. The design both serves the artworks and interacts with them, rather than dominating them with overpowering architecture. As such, the new architecture has been designed from the ‘inside – out’, expressing its architecture as the result of dealing attentively with the gallery and circulating spaces.
Stanton Williams wanted to retain the quality of light that comes into the museum, which allows visitors to sense the modulations of natural light and acts as a reminder of the close relationship artists have with light. New technology allows better control of natural light within the galleries, and improved artificial lighting provides the flexibility required for lighting contemporary art. Stanton Williams has brought a unique sense of architectural coherence to this project, through a single, holistic design process, which included museum layout, architecture, landscaping, and graphic identity in collaboration with Cartlidge Levene.
The Musée d'arts de Nantes opened to the public on 23 June 2017.