Location: Paris, France
Architects: Snøhetta and Chatillon architects
Restoration: 2015-2021
Area: 3900m²

Situated in the historic and vibrant city of Paris, Museé Carnavalet is the oldest Parisian Museum. It has been listed as ‘Monument Historique’ because of its pre-eminence to France’s architectural and cultural heritage. The Carnavalet museum emerged by merging two significant buildings, the hotel Carnavalet and adjacent Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, both of which were built in the 17th century. 

Design Philosophy | Carnavalet Museum

Recently renovated by Snøhetta along with Chatillon architects, the museum was affected by confusing layouts and modifications over the years. Thus, the circulation was primarily needed to be reworked upon. It consisted of a complete restoration of the historical architectural complex, new exhibition settings, revised circulation, added galleries, and various visitor facilities. The partial restoration made it accessible to all age brackets with its redesigned interiors in contemporary fashion. The sculptures and paintings create the essence of the museum.

Design Organisation

The Carnavalet museum is developed in close collaboration with the museum’s scientific and cultural teams for developing the elements, circulation, and exhibition spaces credited to its historic importance. The restoration was carried out by Chatillion architects and Snøhetta Architects added a touch of novelty to the space through design. Overcoming the challenges of varying ceiling heights and levels created a way to add galleries on the first floor. The graphic designs of the museum, exhibition panels, and meditation equipment were crafted by Snøhetta.

It continues to maintain the original features of the building while restoring it to comply with the current standards and enhancing the overall museum experience for all visitors. The key idea was to create a fluid circulation place, maintaining a visual connection with the outdoors. Creating an intuitive journey through the museum and making the building more adapted to children and people with disabilities enriches the journey for every visitor.

There are courtyards, gardens, and cafes added to the exhibition spaces to boost the trip for the visitors. An extension to the museum and two-tiered galleries were included. The facades overlook the garden featuring elements from demolished Parisian buildings from the 17th and the 18th century. Several sculptures have been relocated from their original site to the museum, like the statue of Victory by Louis Simon Boizot from Place du Châtelet. The pleasant central courtyard and formal gardens offer a photogenic perspective and create a delightful sightseeing spot. The internal exhibition pathways include painted ceilings and sculpted panels. The reception is renovated and designed for optimal use. The cloakrooms, ticket counters have been reworked to increase the museum’s comfort and capacity.

Carnavalet Museum By Snøhetta: Journey through Time - Sheet1
Pathways opening to the central courtyard_©François Grunberg

Coherence of Materials

The shapes and materials used in the Carnavalet Museum are timeless. The design embraces sustainable energy solutions, as well as high-quality and long-lasting materials. There is an extraordinary emphasis on sustainability throughout the museum. In addition to extraordinary forms, the materials chosen are equally environmentally friendly. The monumental staircases are designed as bold organic shapes in dark steel with refined timber step work. The choice of powder-coated metal for staircases and solid wood finishes provides a longer material lifecycle. Traditional materials are used for signages, for instance, plastics and disposable materials, like paper, have been substituted by flexible multimedia solutions. Throughout the museum, the dark consistent palette in coherence with the rest of the project highlights the detail and complexity of the displayed artifacts.

Carnavalet Museum By Snøhetta: Journey through Time - Sheet2
Artifacts complementing the contemporary staircase_©Antoine Mercusot

Chronological Exhibits | Carnavalet Museum

The history of the French capital unfolds in sequential order, through contemporary yet authentic spaces. The rich past of the city is depicted through 62,5000 artifacts, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, woodwork, art pieces, and photography. The building is also made adaptive to children and specially-abled people. 10% of the artifacts are displayed at children’s eye level. 

Exuberant Exhibition space_©Pierre Antoine

Various new spaces are crafted to accommodate teaching activities that are introduced throughout the museum. Numerous activities are introduced with extraordinary resources from the museum’s rich collection. Even the cellars are transformed into exhibition spaces that were inaccessible to the public until now. 

Exhibits are aggrandized by making them physically and intellectually accessible for all. The information about the presented pieces is translated into varied languages. Thus, this museum is now universally accessible to all categories of people from history connoisseurs to young minds who are curious about opulent history. An improved chronological display and contextualization of artifacts come together to narrate the story of Paris- from prehistoric time until today. 

Apart from focusing on the exhibits, the Carnavalet museum also focused on utilizing natural resources. A maximum number of windows were reopened to gain maximal daylight. Additionally, the passages opening to the courtyards improve the ventilation throughout the space. 

The Carnavalet museum is a perfect blend of ethos and history of the city and simultaneously addresses present-day subjects like sustainability. The lucidity of forms and the materials with the surroundings accentuate the journey for every visitor.

  1. snohetta.com. (n.d.). Musée Carnavalet. [online] Available at: https://snohetta.com/projects/557-musee-carnavalet [Accessed 24 Dec. 2021].
  2. Floornature.com. (n.d.). Snøhetta and Chatillon Architectes at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris | Floornature. [online] Available at: https://www.floornature.com/snohetta-and-chatillon-architectes-musee-carnavalet-paris-16323/ [Accessed 26 Dec. 2021].
  3. ‌www.carnavalet.paris.fr. (n.d.). The Musée Carnavalet | Carnavalet. [online] Available at: https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/musee-carnavalet [Accessed 25 Dec. 2021].

Namita Karnik is a budding architect, zealous explorer, and imaginative thinker. With the knack of writing, she wishes to convey her thoughts to the world. Thriving for new experiences, she holds immense love for travel, sketching, and photography.