New museum on Normandy coast to act as “periscope” for Franco-British relations

Casson Mann and architectural Atelier Philéas have been commissioned to design the Centre for Franco-British Relations, which is due to open in 2019.

Centre des Realtions Franco-Britannique © Atelier Philéas 2017

The UK’s historical ties with France are undeniably long and complex, with both wars being waged and alliances formed between the two countries from as early as the 14th century right up until today.

As the UK’s impending divorce from the European Union edges closer, and French president Emmanuel Macron considers poaching big banks from London’s financial centre, it seems like a fitting time to reflect on our often temperamental relationship with our closest neighbour across the Channel.

The Centre for Franco-British Relations is a newly announced museum documenting the history of relations between the two countries, which will be located in Ouistreham on France’s Normandy Coast.

Due to open in 2019, the museum will be a collaborative effort between London-based consultancy Casson Mann and Parisian architectural practice Atelier Philéas.

The two companies have been chosen following a pitching process that saw more than 130 submissions and three finalists. Their winning concept envisions the centre as an “architectural periscope” looking at Franco-British relations, says Casson Mann, with a permanent exhibition space that will tell the story of common themes, events, individuals and ideas that have shaped their relationship throughout history.

Located on Ouistreham’s Sword Beach, the building will be on the site where a large number of sea battles took place between the two countries during the Hundred Years’ War and where the D-Day landings occurred during World War Two, while thousands of UK holidaymakers still pass through the port today.

“Bridge between France and the UK”

The museum will feature a permanent, immersive exhibition space, a landscaped roof area and a panoramic view of the channel that connects the two countries.

The permanent exhibition space will be divided up roughly chronologically and filled with characters from history that are involved in the narrative. One side will look towards the channel while the other will have its back towards it, offering the French and British version of events respectively.

“We also intend to be a little bit mischievous with the tensions between them,” says Casson Mann director Gary Shelley, “For example, by using humour to look at what each country historically thinks of the other.”

Casson Mann co-founder and creative director Roger Mann, says: “As individuals and a studio, Europe, and France in particular, is part of our heritage and success and we celebrate the symbolic and practical importance of this new centre.”

“A new bridge between France and the UK, we hope that the exhibition will encourage exploration and discovery of how history, culture and trade are all interlinked, leading to deeper understanding of how the cross-over between important figures, events, locations and ideas have and continue to shape our relationship,” Mann adds.

The Centre for Franco-British Relations will open to the public from November 2019.

Centre des Realtions Franco-Britannique © Atelier Philéas 2017
Centre des Realtions Franco-Britannique © Casson Mann 2017
Centre des Realtions Franco-Britannique © Casson Mann 2017

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