On the basis of the cultural project devised by the museum curation team, Chaix & Morel and Associates Architecture Studio won the architects’ competition in May 1999. Work started in January 2001 and finished in June 2005.
Restoring its original light to the Petit Palais
Faced with having to exhibit the works in daylight alone, in his day Charles Girault used a wide variety of tricks to bring the light in everywhere: glass roofs, large picture windows, peristyle opening onto the inner garden… This approach, which delighted Parisians in the early 20th century, finally turned out to be too modern for the resources that the curators disposed of for air-conditioning the spaces and filtering the light. The architectural agency’s approach therefore consisted of solving these difficulties using the most advanced technologies while restoring the building’s original beauty and modernity.
One museum, two spaces
To make full use of the capacity of the Petit Palais, two different parts have been created: one, located next to the Champs-Élysées, is devoted to the permanent collections; the other, on the Cours de la Reine side, is reserved for temporary exhibitions.
Large-scale operations have also been carried out to create new spaces such as the auditorium under the inner garden, and the two underground levels for the service areas and storerooms. Upstairs, an additional level has been created in the volume of the south gallery. The offices, the new graphic arts agency and the cultural action department are based there.
A hundred years after its construction, the renaissance of the Palais is a success that combines the complete restoration of the building with new museographic directions.
A new sense of purpose
The new ambition of the Petit Palais:
• To exhibit more permanent collections (the exhibition space is increasing from 3 000 to 5 000 m2).
• To organise a balanced route through time, from the art of 1900 to Antiquity, favouring connections between artistic techniques (paintings, sculptures and art objects) and major events in the history of Western art.
• Reinforcing our educational orientation (developing visitor services, publishing guides, information sheets etc.).
• Using an “exhibitions – collections” space (450 m2) to display the museum’s collections on rotation, including the graphic arts collections, which are too fragile to be on display permanently.
• Organising international exhibitions on the first floor, in the western part of the building, on an 1800 m2 to 2200 m2 circuit.
• Making access easier for all visitors, especially disabled visitors.
• Creating new places for socialising and cultural action (renovated inner garden and creation of the café, book and gift shop, and an auditorium with 187 seats, including 5 reserved for disabled people).
Redevelopment of the gardens around the Petit Palais
Continuing on from the renovation work at the Petit Palais, Bertrand Delanoë also wanted to redevelop the Champs-Élysées gardens located around the building. This project was entrusted to the Directorate of Parks, Gardens and Green Spaces of the City.
The chosen approach takes account of the site’s history and the Champs-Élysées redevelopment directives.