December 09: Adaptive Reuse Bien Fait

2016/12/09 § Leave a comment

Musee DOrsay

On this day in 1986 the Musée d’Orsay opened.

The project is a fantastic re-use of a stunner of a train station (designed by Victor Laloux and others in 1898) that had run its course of usefulness (not its fault–the trains kept getting longer).  When opened, the station served the newest in transport technology in a building that addressed the longstanding Beaux-Arts traditions in the city, with a stunning, coffered, steel and glass-topped concourse.

As of the late 1970s the government decided to change its function to art museum, providing welcome relief to the bursting Louvre.  Indeed, the decision was made in the same year that the Centre Pompidou opened; now Paris would have three main state museums, the Pompidou for twentieth-century art, the d’Orsay for art of the mid-nineteenth century through WW1, and the Louvre still stuffed with everything else.

Architect Gae Aulenti (1927-2012), who developed her career breathing that cool modernish-classicesque thing that was floating around Italy through the twentieth century, won the competition with her proposal to insert stark, but reticent, gallery prisms into the main concourse.  While invading that great big glorious space, at ground level the sweep of the ceiling is still profound, and the galleries serve, rather than overwhelm, the wonderful stuff you go there to see: the Art Nouveau furniture, loads of sculptureRosa Bonheur’s cows (seriously, look at the way that white one is looking back at you), Degas from here til Tuesday, and our hands-down favorite, Caillebotte.  Like the other two big official art museums (among the gazillion of others crammed into that city), the d’Orsay presents wonderful and delightful paintings and sculpture in an inspiring and complimentary setting.  Mon Dieu, Paris knows how to do a museum.

Image: inside the museum (Clio’s)

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You are currently reading December 09: Adaptive Reuse Bien Fait at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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