Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes

16, Boulevard des Arènes, Nîmes
Occitanie, France
Phone: +33 04 48210210
Website: https://museedelaromanite.fr/en/
closed on: Tuesdays, January 1, December 25
Museum Type: Archaeology
Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, exterior2

The Musée de la Romanité is an archaeological museum in Nîmes, a mid-sized city in Occitanie, southern France, world-known for its exceptionally-preserved Roman monuments. Clad in thousands of translucent glass tiles, the distinctive building of the museum was designed by French-Brazilian architect Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

Cover image, the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes designed by Elizabeth de Portzamparc; © Wade Zimmerman.

History
Opened in June 2018, the museum is adjacent to the famous Arena of Nîmes, an imposing Roman amphitheater built in the 1st century CE and one the world’s best-preserved examples of Roman architecture.
The idea to create a new museum aimed to present the city’s archaeological collections was devised by the Mayor of Nimes, Jean-Paul Fournier, in the early 2000s. Founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC with the name of Colonia Nemausus, Nîmes quickly archived a great relevance during the Roman Empire for its strategic position halfway along the Via Domitia road that connected Italy and Spain.
The city still retains some of the most impressive Roman buildings in Europe, including the Maison Carrée, the Temple of Diana, a part of the ancient walls with two gates, the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, and the Amphitheater.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, aerial view

Aerial view with the Musée de la Romanité (In the foreground ) and the Nîmes Arena. Image courtesy of Elizabeth de Portzamparc Architecte.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, terrace with Arena

View of the Roman arena from the roof terrace of the museum. Photo © Serge Urvoy.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, exterior 6

View of the museum from the Nîmes Arena; © Serge Urvoy.

The architecture of the Roman Museum of Nîmes
The project by Elizabeth de Portzamparc is the winner of an architectural design competition, organized in 2013, in which it was selected previously as one of the three finalist entries, together with those by Rudy Ricciotti and Richard Meier.
With a gross floor area of 9,100 square meters / 98,000 square feet, the building designed by de Portzamparc consists of two volumes, the largest is a four-story box with a perfectly-square plan which houses the museum’s exhibition halls and visitors’ facilities, while the smaller one is a rectangular construction that contains educational rooms and administration offices.
At street level, the building is crossed by a public covered passageway, connecting the square of the  Nîmes Arena with an archaeological garden located behind the museum, on which the museum’s 17-meter-high glassed lobby opens onto.
The lobby is dominated by a large double-spiral staircase, clearly inspired by the one designed by Leonardo da Vinci at the Chambord Castle, and by the remains of the monumental pediment of the ancient  Sanctuary of La Fontaine nearby.
Together with the lobby, the ground floor houses four exhibition rooms and various visitor facilities – including a bookshop and a cafe – while the upper floors accommodate several permanent exhibition galleries; finally, the museum is topped by a roof garden encircling a central elliptical patio. The whole building is wrapped in an undulated skin made up of 7,000 translucent glass tiles.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, exterior 5

An exterior view of the museum. Courtesy of Musée de la Romanité.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, site plan

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, ground floor plan

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, section

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes; site plan, ground-floor plan, and longitudinal section. Images courtesy of Elizabeth de Portzamparc Architecte.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, glass envelope

The undulated skin wrapping the museum is made up of about 7,000 translucent glass tiles; © Serge Urvoy.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, translucent glass envelope

Detail of the translucent-glass envelope of the museum; © Serge Urvoy.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, roof garden

The roof garden; © Serge Urvoy.

Collection and permanent exhibition
The permanent exhibition of the Musée de la Romanité covers some 25 centuries of the history of Nîmes, from the 7th century BC to the present. The exhibition is divided into 4 chronological sections dedicated to the Pre-Roman Period (7th century BC-1st century BC), the Roman period (1st century BC – 3d century AD), the Middle Ages (10th-15th century), and the Legacy of Roman Antiquity. Overall, the permanent exhibition features 65 interactive installations, full-scale reconstructions, models of ancient monuments, and some 5,000 artifacts – including sculptures, architectural decorations, mosaics, inscriptions, pottery, religious and everyday objects – from the museum’s 25,000-piece collection.
The Musée de la Romanité also includes a 3,500-square-meter /37,700-square-foot garden with archaeological remains and three botanical gardens, each featuring plants reminiscent of one of the historical periods presented in the museum’s permanent exhibition.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, double spiral staircase

The double-helix staircase in the museum’s lobby, inspired by the Chambord staircase by Leonardo da Vinci; © Serge Urvoy.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, permanent exhibition 1

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, permanent exhibition 2

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, permanent exhibition 4

Views of the permanent exhibition galleries; © Wade Zimmerman.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, permanent exhibition 6

The collection of 19th-century models of Roman monuments on view in the permanent exhibition.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, permanent exhibition interactive

One of the 65 interactive exhibits in the permanent exhibition.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, exterior 4

View of the museum from the archaeological garden; © Wade Zimmerman.

Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, exterior night

The Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes at dusk. Photo ©  Nicholas Borel.


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