The city of Nîmes has a uniquely rich historical legacy, which encompasses some of the most complete Roman buildings still in existence anywhere in the world, including the iconic Maison Carrée, an exceptionally well-preserved Roman temple dating to the first century AD. A decades-long effort to update the city’s architecture while preserving this heritage culminated in a competition to replace a small, obsolete archeological museum, transforming the city into a preeminent cultural destination by celebrating its ancient heritage.
The museum is designed as the gateway to an urban promenade, a monumental portal at the beginning of a journey to the Maison Carrée and the city’s other Roman treasures. As a geographical and symbolical center, it is both a place of convergence and a generator of new paths for discovery. The site faces the most symbolic monument of Roman Nîmes – the Arena – and is crossed by the ruins and archeological remains of ancient roman fortifications. It is a perfect square in shape, with each side providing strong directional hierarchy: the front faces towards the Arena and a large open plaza, two sides are bordered by narrow roads, and the rear opens to a plaza to be used as an archeological garden.
A largely transparent facade displays a contemporary reading of Roman civilization. From the outside, it offers the visibility of the objects and the volumes of the Museum. From the inside, it offers the exposure to the objects and the volume of the arena.