Saturday, April 6, 2013

Musée du quai Branly

Just a block from the Eiffel Tower and surrounded by traditional picturesque French architecture sits both a lush and living building.   Its bold mixture of color and shape  causes it to stand out from the crowd. This is the Musée du quai Branly, or Quai Branly Museum in English, which hosts a large and diverse collection of indigenous art and cultural artifacts from Asia,  Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The museum, a relatively recent addition to the international museum scene, was finished in 2006.

Designed by architect  Jean Nouvel, the museum complex contains  exhibition spaces, a large multimedia library, indoor and outdoor gardens along with the obligatory offices and storage space for the rotating collection.

Nouvel worked a subtle but still visible architectural statement into the exterior of the museum.
Instead of presenting one unified face for a museum dedicated to the art of disparate peoples from all over the world, he designed the exterior to signify the coming together of distinct cultures. While the sizes and colors of the various boxes vary the building still presents a collective spacial solidarity. The boxes fracture what might otherwise have been a simple glass wall into something meaningful alluding to the diverse  collection housed within.

Behind the lush textures of the exterior lays a well crafted and intentionally circuitous interior designed with a conscious melding of architecture and color to smooth the transitions for the visitors between exhibits of different time periods and geographic origins.   Nouvel used color (along with hidden lighting, changing ceiling heights, and sweeping ramps) to conceal the 'buildingness' of museum. The dark almost brooding colors of the upper levels fade to creamy tan and warm peach near the exhibition floor adding to the overall effect. Color becomes culturally personal to each exhibition space that not only allows for easier navigation, but helps ground the view to each new space the visitor enters.

But we what to know what you think. Have you visited the Musée du quai Branly? Have other museums you've seen used color to suport the goals of the museum? Let us know in comments!

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

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