After a meticulous multi-year restoration the Musée Rodin in Paris has reopened to the public. Dedicated exclusively to the work of Auguste Rodin, the state-owned museum has undergone a ground-up facelift designed to breathe new life into the ageing home of the artist’s diverse body of work. Housed in an estate originally built in 1732 and open to the public since 1919, the comprehensive renovation has left no stone unturned, including a full structural and cosmetic overhaul. Project architect Richard Duplat was challenged to “recreate the atmosphere it must have had in Rodin’s day” while implementing current accessibility and safety standards, all with the goal to better represent Rodin’s influential work.
Having been open to the public continuously for nearly a century, the Musée Rodin was in dire need of restoration. The parquet tile had loosened completely, wood paneling was falling from the walls and the structure itself had begun to rot. By historical estimates, the building had not been altered since Rodin’s stay during the late nineteenth century. In 2010, it was decided that the museum would embark on a €16million government-funded renovation to address significant issues plaguing the building. Led by Richard Duplat, Chief Architect of Historical Monuments for the French Government, and Dominique Brard, exhibition designer with Atelier de l’Ile, the restoration would call for several years of partial and full closures to accommodate the complete removal and replacement of all floors and wall coverings.
Spread across eighteen rooms, the opulent estate features ornate hand carved woodwork and windows framed by subtle masonry. In recent decades, however, the museum became more pared down as affordable solutions to structural flaws were introduced – including haphazard patching of major cracks in load bearing walls. The renovations were timely, says Duplat: “It would definitely have been risky to wait any longer. As it turned out, all the surprises we had were due to the building’s hidden weaknesses: because of the exhibitions, we hadn’t been able to carry out the investigations required by the construction work.” As the project progressed, restorers encountered numerous layers of millwork and upholstery used as stopgap solutions to critical problems, thus intensifying the urgent need for restoration.
Duplat’s restoration mandated the complete stripping of the building’s interior spaces with a dual intent to modernize the internal infrastructure. An elevator was retrofitted into the three-hundred year old building, plumbing replaced, and electric and fire systems updated to meet current code requirements. Through collaboration with designer Dominique Brard and colour consultants Farrow & Ball, the museum was able to fully modernize the antiquated exhibition spaces while continuing to pay tribute to Rodin’s seminal works, with particular attention devoted to custom interior furniture, lighting and colour schemes.
The resulting spaces are airy and rich in sunlight, reviving the history embodied by Rodin’s original furniture and featuring hundreds of his process and finished works. The sprawling mansion is once again open to the public in Paris’ 7th Arrondissement, and can be admired thoroughly thanks to generous access to the building realized through reconfigurations by the architects.