Once a vital Roman port, the city of Narbonne in southern France has an impressive legacy of buildings, ancient relics and archaeological sites. The Musée de la Romanité is a new landmark at the entrance to the city, on a site adjacent to the Canal de la Robine. The landscaping reinforces the connection with the water to create a tranquil natural setting. Inspired by formal French gardens and the Roman courtyard, the museum’s grounds feature an amphitheatre for open-air displays and events.
The centrepiece of the museum is a collection of more than 1,000 ancient stone relief funerary blocks excavated nearby. Their display forms a natural barrier at the heart of the simple, rectilinear building, separating the public galleries from the more private restoration spaces. Visitors will be able to glimpse the work of the archaeologists and researchers through its mosaic of stone and light, and the flexible display framework allows the reliefs to be easily reconfigured and used as an active tool for learning.
The building incorporates galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, a multimedia education centre and library, as well as restoration and storage facilities. These spaces are arranged over a single storey with administrative offices at mezzanine level and are unified beneath a concrete roof canopy, which provides thermal mass and contributes to a comprehensive environmental strategy. The canopy is elevated above a clerestory, punctuated with light wells, and it extends to shade a wide public plaza around the museum.