Narbo Via Museum
Narbo Via: a jewel of the Roman Empire

Narbonne, France

2021

Goppion has an impressive track record working with important archaeological sites in France. The Vesunna Museum, built in 2004 with Ateliers Jean Nouvel, and the Historical Museum of Marseille, built in 2015 with Adeline Rispail, are both past projects that called on our experience and expertise. Now Goppion turns to the historic city of Narbonne. Once an important Roman maritime port and provincial capital, it was at the economic and commercial heart of the Empire for a considerable time.

Units

40

The Narbo Via (Roman Museum of Narbonne), a new regional museum that hosts the collection of the entire Narbonnaise Romaine, is a new landmark greeting visitors at the entrance to the city. The site is adjacent to the Canal de la Robine, and landscaping reinforces the connection with water to create a peaceful natural setting. Designers Foster + Partners were inspired by formal French gardens and the Roman courtyard; the Museum’s grounds include an amphitheatre for open-air displays and events.

The Museum’s centerpiece is a collection of more than 1,000 ancient stone relief funerary blocks, excavated during the 19th century from the remnants of the city’s medieval walls. Their display in a monumental Glyptotheque, designed by French studio Adrièn Gardère, forms a natural barrier at the heart of the simple, rectilinear building, separating the public galleries from the more private restoration spaces.

Visitors can now glimpse the work of archaeologists and researchers through its mosaic of stone and light. A flexible display framework allows the reliefs to be easily reconfigured and used as an active tool for learning.

The building incorporates galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, a multimedia education centre and library, as well as restoration and storage facilities. These spaces are arranged across a single storey beneath a concrete roof canopy, which provides thermal mass and contributes to a comprehensive environmental strategy.

The scenography of the permanent exhibitions, imagined by Gardère, is based on the classic plan of a Roman villa, with a central atrium serving all the exhibition spaces.

Goppion's installation includes over 40 island and wall display cases, most of which are housed in niches.

The showcases are flanked by numerous display units and different furnishing elements, including 11 ensembles of different heights and sizes. These are linked by bases, pedestals and other elements to present and support large, very heavy stone artefacts. Furniture was also created to house accompanying multimedia equipment.

Goppion overcame considerable technological challenges in realising this ambitious project.

For key elements of exhibition design, the architects selected a raw steel finish that was slightly shiny grey. - This presented a major challenge and Goppion worked extensively in the study phase to achieve the designer's aesthetic wishes. The steel was chosen for its resistance to the heavy weight of the works and the load-bearing capacity of the industrial profiles.

A further challenge was represented by the objects to be exhibited, mostly stone artifacts of considerable weight that had to be housed on slim bases with slender profiles.

Added demands included the need for stringent cleanliness and minimalism showcase design. Realising the designer’s aesthetic vision involved particularly meticulous attention to detail, as well as the need to minimize and hide technical components of the showcases as much as possible, for the benefit of maximum transparency and linearity. Narbonne’s ancient treasures can now be appreciated in a beautiful setting that does them justice.