© Steven Holl Architects

New Skins: 8 French Museums Rethinking the Urban Façade

These façades combine cultural expression with advanced material assemblies. They are new skins that balance monumentality and articulation.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

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Façades transform spatial perception. As the liminal link between exterior and interior spaces, building façades are used to mitigate solar heat gain, control views and shape connections to the surrounding context. Moving beyond the pure continuous glazing of the International Style, new projects are creating incredible envelopes that rethink architectural cladding and fenestration. Made from numerous materials such as concrete, wood and metal, these projects represent a global trend towards specialized, integrated building façades.

Exploring contemporary façade design through the lens of France, we’ve rounded up a collection of museums made with radical new building skins. Designed with flowing forms and rectilinear volumes, the projects combine cultural expression with advanced material assemblies. Revealing the tectonic and haptic nature of building envelopes, each façade design establishes powerful relationships between light, people and space. As a collection, they reveal how architects are rethinking urban façades by balancing monumentality and articulation.

© Emile Dubuisson

© Emile Dubuisson

© Emile Dubuisson

© Emile Dubuisson

© Emile Dubuisson

© Emile Dubuisson

Fondation Louis Vuittonby L’Observatoire International, Île-de-France, France

Located on the site of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, this museum and cultural center draws inspiration from 19th-century glass and garden architecture. As a glass ark, the project was made from 3,600 glass panels around a central, concrete core.

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

© Rudy Ricciotti Architecte

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) by Rudy Ricciotti, Marseilles, France

Rudy Ricciotti’s MuCEM design was built on the Marseilles waterfront as the first museum in the world dedicated to the cultures of the Mediterranean. Iconic and expansive, the project features a delicate concrete façade that dematerializes the structure and acts as an amorphous brise-soleil.

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

© MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

LaM – Lille Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outside Art by MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE, Lille, France

This project extends the Musée d’Art Moderne of Lille with a continuous and fluid museum space that also adds new gallery areas. Designed for visitors to discover art work through gradual movement, the project includes views onto the surrounding parkland through openwork screens.

© Steven Holl Architects

© Steven Holl Architects

© Steven Holl Architects

© Steven Holl Architects

Cité de l’Ocean et du Surfby Steven Holl Architects, Biarritz, France

Designed to help raise awareness of oceanic issues, the Museum of Ocean and Surf combines plaza space, exhibition areas and collection space. Exploring the scientific and education aspects of the sea and its role in ecology, science and leisure, the museum integrates concept and topography. Together, the two elements establish unique spatial experiences around “glass boulders.”

© Architecturestudio

© Architecturestudio

© Architecturestudio

© Architecturestudio

Arab World Institute by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris, France

The IMA was produced through collaboration with the countries of the Arab League and the French government. Located along the River Seine, the project features an advanced responsive metallic brise-soleil that takes inspiration from the Arabic mashrabiyya.

© Shigeru Ban Architects

© Shigeru Ban Architects

© Shigeru Ban Architects

© Shigeru Ban Architects

© Shigeru Ban Architects

© Shigeru Ban Architects

Centre Pompidou Metz by Shigeru Ban Architects, Metz, France

Shigeru Ban’s Pompidou Metz was designed to capitalize on the best qualities of museums like the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Tate Modern in London. Establishing spaces around the ease of viewing and displaying art, as well as a desire to create a sculptural architecture, the Metz combined simple volumes with a timber roof structure. This iconic roof uses glulam construction and overlapping wood members that hover over all of the separate volumes to unify them into a cohesive whole.

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

© Bernard Tschumi Architects

Alésia Museum and Archaeological Park by Bernard Tschumi Architects, Alise-Sainte-Reine, France

Tschumi’s Alésia Museum was created as two separate but related structures. The first building, the interpretive center, has been built at the historic Roman field position. This project was clad with wood, a circular building that includes a roof garden and a dual material language between exterior and interior space.

© RCR Arquitectes

© RCR Arquitectes

© RCR Arquitectes

© RCR Arquitectes

© RCR Arquitectes

© RCR Arquitectes

Soulages Museum by RCR Arquitectes, Rodez, France

Designed to celebrate the French painter of “light,” Soulages Museum was inspired by the artist’s approach, attitude and involvement. Merging together museum and landscape, the project explores multiple relationships where nothing can be removed.

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© Dennis De Smet Photographs

AZ Sint-Lucas Car Park // Abscis Architecten

Ghent, Belgium

© Garza Iga Arquitectos

CIMA HOUSE // Garza Iga Arquitectos

Chihuahua, Mexico

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