Musée de la Romanité
The Musée de la Romanité opened at the beginning of June 2018 and is one of the most significant cultural openings in France this year.
Located in the heart of the city of Nîmes, the Musée de la Romanité is a landmark structure and sits opposite the Amphitheatre of Nîmes. The museum is home to an exceptional archaeological collection of over 25,000 pieces. It was designed by Elizabeth de Portzamparc following an international competition that was launched in 2011.
The Musée de la Romanité is a gateway to understanding the roman sites of the region. It is able to tell the Roman story through the multitude of artefacts that have survived thousands of years. The museum is organised around an interior street that follows the trace of the ancient Augustan rampart. Accessible to all, this public passageway creates a visual opening and links the plaza surrounding the Amphitheatre with the archaeological garden.
In the building’s core, a 17-meter atrium reveals a fragment of the propylaea of the Sanctuary of the Fountain, placed within a spectacular reconstitution of this sacred site dating from the foundation of the pre-Roman city. This first ever public recreation is an invitation to discover the entire collections and interior of the museum.
This passageway also offers access to museum’s bookstore, café, and the restaurant, La table du 2, with its breath-taking view of the Amphitheatre, and run by Chef Franck Putelat, who has been awarded two stars in the Michelin Guide for Le Parc in Carcassonne.
The façade makes a distinct impression and has been designed to develop a powerful architectural dialog between itself and the amphitheatre. The supple drapery of the façade evokes a Roman toga and the square glass plates composing it combine modern transparency with the tradition of a major Roman art – mosaics. It also subtly evokes a major element of the museum’s collections. This translucent glass skin is composed of 7,000 screen-printed glass plates covering a surface of 2,500m2. The reflections and undulations of this glass mosaic change appearance over the course of the day.
The museum’s roof doubles up as a green public space, offering panoramic views of the city and its 21 centuries of history. Down below, the archaeological garden is organised around a roman wall and other elements found prior to levelling work. Everything that was discovered has been preserved and is freely accessible to visitors. The garden is structured in three layers that correspond to the three major periods – the Gaul’s, the Romans and the Middle Ages – covered in the museum. In addition to its scientific value, the archaeological garden offers a new space of nature in the city for visitors and passers-by.
Work to construct the building began at the end of 2014. It was completed in summer 2017 before the installation of the museum’s collections could begin.
Through careful planning the city of Nîmes has been able to preserve a standout collection of Roman history. Along with Rome, the city is one of the most complete urban testimonies of the Roman civilisation in the West.