Stanton Williams and Cartlidge Levene collaborate on Nantes Musée des Beaux-Arts brief

A €46m (£38.5m) project is under way to extend and renovate the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, France, led by architect Stanton Williams, with Cartlidge Levene designing graphics and wayfinding.

Stanton Williams was appointed in November 2009 following a three-stage tender process, before recommending Cartlidge Levene to the client. The architect and the consultancy have worked together intermittently over the past 25 years.

Stanton Williams was the only non-French practice to be shortlisted, according to its director Patrick Richard. He claims that the museum, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, will be renamed The Grand Musée d’Art on opening.

Cartlidge Levene ’may’ rebrand the museum, says Richard, who will develop architectural work before the consultancy works up a strategy and creative ideas for wayfinding and exhibition graphics.

Three-dimensional graphics may be considered. ’We need to open up debates on what will work best,’ says Richard. ’The graphics will have to be unobtrusive and helpful. We don’t want kids touching computer screens instead of looking at the art.’

’It’s important to circulate visitors, ensure legibility and build a permanent wayfinding system which is carried throughout the museum,’ adds Ian Cartlidge of Cartlidge Levene.

’There has to be integration of architecture and graphics on these projects, and one will complement the other,’ says Richard.

In addition to museum renovation, a new 5800m2 extension will be built to link smaller outbuildings to the adjacent original building, which dates from 1900. Cartlidge Levene’s wayfinding solution will pervade the complex.

The original Palais des Beaux-Arts building occupies half an urban block, with streets to the north, east and south. Smaller buildings are found to the west, where new galleries and Building 14 – a documentation and research centre – will be constructed.

Stanton Williams is calling the development ’an unfolding sequence of spaces’ which ’engages with its urban context’.

The new structure will connect to the old museum at basement and first-floor levels, and an external palette of materials including stone, marble and Marmorino plaster will be continued within the building to reflect the continuity of external and internal space – characteristic of many buildings in the Loire valley.

’Blind niches’ will be cut into the walls to accommodate video installations, says Richard.

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