Museum’s Green Roof Unites New, Ancient Themes

Building a new monumental structure next to one of the great relics of the ancient world is a tall order, but this winning green proposal from designer Elizabeth de Portzamparc could manage to bridge the gap between the modern and the classic.

In a recent contest to design the new Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes, France, de Portzamparc has proposed a rectangular box wrapped in fluid, diaphanous materials to contrast with the dark stone arches and oval shape of the city’s nearly 2,000-year-old Roman Arena.  Along with generous windows to provide views on the ground floor, the museum design includes a green roof that can be accessed by visitors.

Old meets new in this winning design for the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes, France. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

Old meets new in this winning design for the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes, France. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

By siting the museum atop the old gate of the formerly walled city, the designers have to be mindful of the fragility of the ancient foundation.  The archaeological collections are expected to include more than 25,000 Roman artifacts, such as the mosaics of Achilles and Penthea. A feasibility study is also being conducted for a nearby convention center and hotel by around 2017.

The green roof of the proposed museum contrasts with the fragile grandeur of the Roman Arena at Nîmes. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

The green roof of the proposed museum contrasts with the fragile grandeur of the Roman Arena at Nîmes. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

The 90,200-square-foot museum building is just one part of a larger urban regeneration project of an area of Nîmes called the “Grill,” which will include the creation of an archeological garden, complete with green walls and ground cover growing between the stones throughout the plaza. As the vegetation grows, a specific palette of plant life, designers say, will be selected and scattered among the strata and recently uncovered ruins of the last 20 centuries.

Next to the museum of Roman artifacts will be an archaeological garden, with green walls and vegetation interwoven between the ancient stones. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

Next to the museum of Roman artifacts will be an archaeological garden, with green walls and vegetation interwoven between the ancient stones. Image via Elizabeth de Portzamparc.

Visitors to the museum will ascend a grand promenade from the main hall via the curving of the “Chambord” stairs. Other “scissors stairs,” the designers say, will lead to a series of ramps that will provide views of the collections. The rooftop and its pedestrian terrace will offer a breathtaking panorama of the city’s urban landscapes, both new and old.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.