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Natural History Museum: Renovation and Extension

Toulouse, France

Competition won in 2000

Client: City of Toulouse
Operations architect: LCR Architects
Structures and fluids studies: BETEM
Facades studies : AR&C
Landscaping: Allain Provost
Museum designer: Xavier Leroux-Cauche
Renovation: 3 700 sq m NSA
Extension: 5 800 sq m NSA
Budget: €24 M + Tax
Mandate: basic assignment

This project is more than just an extension of the current museum, it deals more with the unraveling and affirmation of the concept of a «new museum" by unifying, with one architectural gesture, all the components of the program: the rehabilitation of the historic building, the construction of a modern and the development of the botanical garden.

The old building is rehabilitated; the brick of its facade is restored and exposed. The animation and information centers are organized around the cloister and transformed into the atrium to be reused as a reception area.

A large curved front of 120m in length showcases the façade of the new museum and it is the interactive link between the different elements and that affirms the unity of the composition. This façade is conceived on the principle of it being a “double skin” where the outer membrane acts as a filter that controls and diffuses light compared to inner skin that enacts as shelves storing historical minerals and skeletons creating different ambiance and atmospheres depending on the exhibition theme.These exhibitions are grouped on two large open planes, superimposed on the premises intended for conservation.

Just as the building of the museum is in continuity with the old one the botanical garden is inspired by the existing essences and ethos. Its shape follows the line of a conical spiral of 65 meters in diameter which is hollowed out over two meters towards a central stream. This geometry links all the components of the project, the interior with the exterior, the plant with the mineral, the exhibition spaces and the spaces of animation and ultimately the old and the modern.


Agency credits

Bertrand Beaussillon (Project director)
Yann Padlewski
Mehdi Jaoua
Marina Donda
Katrin Bergman
Lionel Lacombe
Frédéric Morel
Marylène Paoli
Natacha Soumagnac