Narbo Via Museum’ is located close to the ‘Canal de la Robine’; historically crucial for Narbonne. This monumental museum has officially opened following an inauguration ceremony attended by the ‘Conseil de la Région Carole Delga’. Foster + Partners designed this beautiful structure to set the landmark at the entrance of the city. The serene view of this museum can be enjoyed from the walking path beside the canal. Foster + Partners put in a huge plinth and put this building on top of it with a delicate roof structure. This museum is close to the city center and surrounded by a stadium, a theatre, an exhibition center, and proposed housing. The design has a delicate plinth area that is above the flood line. A gentle ramp is installed at the entry of this plinth. Visitors can enjoy the surroundings of the plinth area with a happening landscape.

Narbo Via Museum by Foster + Partners - Sheet1
Narbo Via Museum | Foster+Partners_©Nigel Young
Narbo Via Museum by Foster + Partners - Sheet2
Narbo Via Museum | Foster+Partners_©Philippe Chancel

Construction Techniques

Inside the museum, visitors can experience a clear floor height of about 7 meters. The primary and secondary beams are set on each other perpendicularly to support the roof. The overhanging roof is made of prefabricated materials, which gives the essence of ancient Roman civic buildings. The roof is elevated above a clerestory, punctuated with light wells, and the extended roof provides a surrounding overhanging canopy for the walkways. Load-bearing walls have a layered texture achieved with dry-mix concrete tamped on the site. This texture almost looks like opus caementicium, a material commonly used in Ancient Rome.

Functional Distribution

This museum contains two types of galleries, which are permanent and temporary exhibition areas. Foster + Partners arranges the functional distribution in a very delicate way. Visitors will find galleries, a café, a multimedia education center, an auditorium, and a bookshop. They also put in the research, restoration, and storage facilities. Several outdoor courtyards can be used for outdoor performances. Formal gardens would mesmerize visitors with their ancient Roman gardens. 

After entering the museum, an entry courtyard would come forward, showing the historical importance of Narbonne. A carved map on the right side of the entrance court shows the area of the Roman empire. There is a reception after the entrance court where visitors can buy tickets. Besides the reception area, there is a restaurant with a huge open terrace where one can enjoy the surrounding landscape while taking a sip of coffee. After that, one can find a store where various kinds of locally-made products, guidebooks, etc. are available. 

Narbo Via Museum by Foster + Partners - Sheet3
Foster+Partners_©Foster+Partners

From the reception, you can get a glimpse of the “Lapidary Wall” which is at the heart of the museum. Over eight hundred stones are preserved here. These stones are used as memorial stones at the beginning. After some centuries, these stones became part of the medial city of Narbonne, as reused ancient Roman materials for the city wall. In the 19th century, these walls were pulled down to make way for the rail lines. During that time, a pharmacist, Paul Tournal, collected those stones and put them in a Roman church. These stones were kept there before they came to this museum’s wall. This lapidary wall not only separates the public galleries from the restoration facilities but also acts as a centerpiece of the museum. Visitors can get experience the work of archaeologists and researchers and the process of stonework preservation. An audio-visual display and a real-time experience help visitors get knowledge about these artifacts. And these presentations help visitors to understand the context and history of these stones. Foster + Partners designed this wall with an industrial expression that is operated by automated robots.

Narbo Via Museum by Foster + Partners - Sheet4
Foster+Partners_©Foster+Partners

The permanent exhibition space is single-storied and accessible to all people. In this part, the load-bearing walls hold the primary collections, and others are arranged in the east-west direction on the ground.  Foster + Partners designed an underground heating and cooling system running beneath the floor that is sustainable and inspired by ancient Roman structures. This subterranean void allowed the cool air at a low level at a low velocity, which allowed a comfortable atmosphere inside the museum. And the high ceiling creates a flywheel effect that pushes the hot air upwards naturally. Such technology helps the cooling system of the museum and shows the developed technology of 2,000-years-old Roman technology.

Foster+Partners_©Foster+Partners

Influenced by Ancient Roman Technologies

Narbo Via museum is a representation of Roman technology and artifacts and has an underpinned approach to simplicity. Foster + Partners not only designed a very elegant structure but also reinforced the relationship between the museum and the canal. And the landscape of this museum is highly inspired by the essence of Roman gardens, which allows open-air programs and events. And the minimalist approach helps the museum structure blend with the surrounding nature. The designers put their best meticulous attention to detail and put every piece of the artifacts delicately. The importance of Narbonne’s history and the preservation of the past is appreciable in this design. 

References

Young, N. (2018). Narbo Via Museum by Foster+Partners. [Photograph]. (Narbonne: https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/narbo-via/#gallery)

Chancel, P. (2018) Narbo Via Museum by Foster+Partners. [Photograph]. (Narbonne: https://bigsee.eu/narbo-via-museum-narbonne/#iLightbox[gallery119453]/0)

Narbo Via Museum Site map. (2021). Site Map of Narbo Via Museum. Location Maps, scale 1:1000. Foster+Partners

Young, N. (2018). Narbo Via Museum by Foster+Partners. [Photograph]. (Narbonne: https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/narbo-via/#gallery)

Narbo Via Museum Site map. (2021). Site Map of Narbo Via Museum. Location Maps, scale 1:300. Foster+Partners

Author

Muhammad Shafayet Hossain is an architect, artist, designer and researcher who is currently working at MSH Atelier. Remarkably making contemporary ideas and working as an artist in the contemporary art scene in Bangladesh. Also, he is associated with working in Research and related fields of Architecture.

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