Renovation of the oldest Parisian museum

After an extensive four-year renovation, Snøhetta along with lead architect Chatillon Architects have completed the architectural renovation of one of the most prominent museums in France: the historic musée Carnavalet. Situated in the 3rd arrondissement in Paris, in the historic and vibrant district of the Marais, the 3,900 m2 musée Carnavalet is the oldest of all Parisian museums, and before closing for renovation in 2016, the museum welcomed more than 400,000 visitors each year.
The musée Carnavalet is the result of the merging of two significant buildings, the Hôtel Carnavalet, completed in 1655 by the famous architect François Mansart, and the adjacent Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, built in 1688 based on drawings from architect Pierre Bullet. Since the mid-1800’s, the musée Carnavalet has been listed as a so-called “Monument Historique” because of its importance to France’s architectural and cultural heritage.
Because of its significant historic importance, the overall design of the museum is developed in close collaboration with the museum’s scientific and cultural teams, as well as a wide range of experts on the city of Paris. The renovation carefully respects the original features of the building while restoring it to comply with current standards and enhancing the overall museum experience for all visitors. The latter is attained through the establishment of a more intuitive journey through the museum, the courtyards, and gardens, but also by making the building more adapted to children and people with disabilities. Fun fact -10% of all artifacts are displayed at children’s eye-level.
While Chatillon Architects have overseen the overall museum restoration and redevelopment, Snøhetta has added a touch of novelty to the space through the design of the new furniture pieces in the reception area and contemporary staircases. Snøhetta has also been in charge of the graphic design of the museum’s wayfinding, exhibition sings, panels and mediation equipment that will help facilitate the overall museum visit.
The new and monumental staircases are designed as bold organic shapes in dark steel with a refined timber step work. Throughout, Snøhetta has chosen to provide a dark consistent palette in coordination with the rest of the project and in particular with the new permanent stenography created by Agence NC (Nathalie Crinière) highlighting the detail and complexity of the displayed artifacts.
The enhanced visitor experience will ensure that the musée Carnavalet becomes an even more attractive venue for Parisians, the French and international tourists by making it physically and intellectually accessible for all. Information about the exhibited artifacts have been translated into several languages and are now universally accessible adapted to all types of museum-goers: from savvy art and history connoisseurs to curious young children that have just started discovering the museum’s rich universe.

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