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  • Europe
  • France
  • Archaeological Museums
  • 2000-2009

Musée de Vesunna

Site-musée gallo-romain

Périgueux, France

2003-2004

The Périgueux Archeological Museum lies in the heart of the ancient city of Vesunna. Built on the remains of a large Gallo-Roman domus, the museum had to both protect the ancient site and display its most important elements. The large and remarkably well-preserved domus was built during the first half of the 1st century AD around a generous peristyle and extensively restructured over the course of the following century. The site is renowned for the liveliness and beauty of its frescoes, still in their original location. The city of Périgueux selected the renowned modernist architect, Jean Nouvel, to design a decisively contemporary museum structure of steel, glass and concrete to emphasize by contrast the relationship of the museum to the ancient monuments surrounding it. The domus is the centerpiece of the museum in that a spectacular view of the ruins greets visitors as they enter the site. Balconies overlooking the site contain the exhibition galleries. The layout of the lower level features wooden walkways that echo the ancient structure, both maximizing and facilitating access to the complex.

Exhibition design: Atelier Jean Nouvel, Paris

The challenge

Our challenge was to seamlessly integrate and conceal complex engineering into Nouvel’s highly specific design for contextualizing the excavation. The display cases needed to be integrated into the installation using the same wood and finishes as were embodied in the museum’s design. To suggest the position of the artifacts at the moment they were found during the excavations, Nouvel designed the cases as glass bonnets without visible frames and dramatically lowered the display surface. The lighting fixtures had to be contained in the display area without being visible to the viewer.

The solution

Goppion built countertop display cases with top-mounted bonnets. Because reducing the height of the base limited the extent to which the bonnets could be lifted by conventional means, we installed telescopic hydraulic pistons that easily and fluidly raise and lower them to the necessary height by a single handle. The lighting uses optical fibers, locating their terminals inside the adjustable square-section tubes to ensure the maximum modulation. All of this complex engineering is hidden behind panels of rare wood that seamlessly meld with the walkways and other furnishing elements within the new museum.

Project data

Exhibition area: 1,000 m2 ; display units: 43; length of exhibit fronts: 50 m