The competition concept goes against the competition organizers’ plan to convert the existing locomotive depot into a museum, and instead proposes a new museum building. Neither the spatial dimensions of the depot, the heterogeneous structure of its architecture, nor its position offer real scope for the far-reaching transformation needed to create a public museum building with all its complex requirements. In contrast, the new museum confidently expresses its function both inside and outside the building, just as the locomotive depot itself once did on this site.
Other traces nonetheless evoke the history and ambience of this locus - the railroad tracks, the turntable, and the northern retaining wall with various rooms embedded in its structure. Last but not least, there are the finely detailed silhouettes of glazed and re-used bricks set into the new walls: these trace out the former positions of the walls and doors, as well as the general contours of the building that used to stand here, and ornament the new building.
The new, precise positioning of the museum creates two generously proportioned squares, providing space for two additional museum buildings in subsequent phases of development. The new building leaves a wide, bright passage through to the western part of the plot. Lined with small shops and galleries in the historic wall niches, this passage links the two squares. The definitive urban framework for the district will be completed in the future, with the northern border of the site developed as a raised garden terrace with pavilions, while the two smaller museums (mudac, Elysée), one in the eastern and one in the western part of the site, will mark the museum district’s starting and ending points.
At two strategic points the primarily single-story volume rises up to form multi-story façades; fronting the square in the east, to clearly mark the building and the new district within the urban context, and on the side toward the rail tracks. The eastern part of the structure houses the areas dedicated to public functions (cafe, auditorium, museum education, and library), which the museum will share with other institutions that will join the “pôle muséal et culturel” in the future. The western part comprises the museum’s workspaces and administrative areas, which are not open to the public.
The main focus is on offering visitors the best possible spatial ambience in which to encounter the artworks. All the exhibition areas on the ground level are confi gured to allow natural light to enter from above and to offer easily accessible, barrier-free visits. The main entrance to the museum is in the northeastern corner of the building, looking toward the square and the passage, and is flanked by the bookshop and the cafe. After circling through the permanent or temporary exhibition, the route leads back into the main foyer, which also opens onto the “Espace projets,” used for special exhibitions.
The elongated main body of the building offers space to deploy photovoltaic arrays across large expanses of the roof to generate electricity and supply the energy needed for the building services. A slender ribbed prefabricated support structure and in-situ recycling of demolition material to construct the load-bearing elements and the façade help to reduce the building’s gray energy consumption. Old bricks from the walls of the former locomotive shed are used in conjunction with new bricks as the construction material for the external shell.