EN

Choose your language

Download PDF files

Le bâtiment du musée © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Cyril Zannettacci

An architecture for a dream

The musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac opened its doors in 2006, at the instigation of Jacques Chirac. A result of his encounter with the collector Jacques Kerchache, the museum was the culmination of an older dream, supported by many writers, critics and anthropologists of the 20th century. The dream of according non-Western arts and civilizations their rightful place within the national museums. In fulfilment of this ambition, the architect Jean Nouvel designed a daring structure, a space to house a heritage of almost 300,000 works.

A haven for the collections   

 “It is a museum built around a collection.” Jean Nouvel presented a resounding response to the architecture competition launched in 1999. The construction of the future musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac had to be based on collections inherited from the musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man) and the musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie (National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania) – reunited after years of dispersal and difficulties – as well as acquisitions acquired after 1997.
The challenge was to design a space to receive the arts and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, yet be unencumbered by the traditions of Western architecture.

Jean Nouvel’s Artistic Gesture

Jean Nouvel proposed “a singular architecture for singular objects.” Everything is curved, fluid, transparent and mysterious, to better serve the institution’s primary mission: to build bridges between cultures, to incite curiosity and to meet the expectations of different audiences.
Perched on stilts, docked on the banks of the River Seine, it is a complex yet welcoming structure built on five levels, similar to a long footbridge. Suspended multi-coloured “boxes”, which seem to be inlaid into the façades, offer more intimate exhibition spaces inside the museum.
Shielded by dense vegetation and protected by a glass palisade, the museum is only gradually revealed to the visitor, who becomes a kind of explorer. To reach the museum, the visitor passes through an undulating garden designed by Gilles Clément, modelled on the chaos of exotic plant life. 

Invitation to travel

And this exploration continues inside the doors of the museum. Access to the exhibition floor is also an initiatory journey. In this open space of 10,000 m2, which houses permanent and temporary exhibition areas, windows are replaced by glass walls. The transparent effects and the natural backdrop created by the trees convey an unprecedented impression of visual freedom.
The four continents – Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas – are brought together in one and the same space. Visitors move through the spaces unobstructed, without direction or hierarchy, protected by subdued lighting which presents the works in their own intimacy.
Thanks to the simple scenography, an exploration of the collections becomes a sensorial and visual experience.