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 and transparent, 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, from which hang multicoloured "boxes". Shielded by dense vegetation and protected by a glass palisade, the museum is only gradually revealed to the visitor... To reach the museum, the visitor passes through an undulating garden designed by Gilles.  

Invitation to travel

In an open space of 10,000 m2, the "Collections Area", the four continents – Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas – are brought together, allowing visitors to move through the spaces unobstructed. Thanks to the refined scenography, an exploration of the collections becomes both a sensorial and a visual experience