written by:
July 20, 2010

Along the left bank of the Seine, the world's most famous museum of impressionistic art had a former life as an old, crumbling train station and hotel. Now, linking the chronological gap between the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, the Musee d'Orsay in Paris is always a treat to see and experience as a radiant success in adaptive reuse.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Musee d'Orsay is the spaciousness of its magnificent vaulted interior. The long central nave is punctuated by a series of bronze and stone sculptures, specifically six bronze 'allegorical sculptural groups' of the l
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Musee d'Orsay is the spaciousness of its magnificent vaulted interior. The long central nave is punctuated by a series of bronze and stone sculptures, specifically six bronze 'allegorical sculptural groups' of the late 19th century.
1 / 13
The original train station-hotel was built by architect Victor Laloux just in time for the World Fair in Paris on Bastille Day (July 14) in 1900. Called Gare d'Orsay, the station had 148-yard platforms that became obsolete only forty years later, since th
The original train station-hotel was built by architect Victor Laloux just in time for the World Fair in Paris on Bastille Day (July 14) in 1900. Called Gare d'Orsay, the station had 148-yard platforms that became obsolete only forty years later, since they were too short for the longer, modern, electric trains. After falling into disrepair, plans were fortunately made in 1973 to convert it into a museum, with the blessing of President Pompidou.
2 / 13
The conversion of station to museum was headed by French ACT Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon) and Italian architect Gae Aulenti, from 1980 to 1986—and created over 200,000 square feet of new floorspace on four floors.
The conversion of station to museum was headed by French ACT Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon) and Italian architect Gae Aulenti, from 1980 to 1986—and created over 200,000 square feet of new floorspace on four floors.
3 / 13
Using a structural system consisting of cast iron pillars and metal vaulting, Laloux's design was admired for the fact that it was well-integrated and hidden by a stone exterior.
Using a structural system consisting of cast iron pillars and metal vaulting, Laloux's design was admired for the fact that it was well-integrated and hidden by a stone exterior.
4 / 13
About 12,000 tons of metal was used for the construction of this building—more than that which was used in the Eiffel Tower. The art nouveau glass awning was transformed into the museum's entrance.
About 12,000 tons of metal was used for the construction of this building—more than that which was used in the Eiffel Tower. The art nouveau glass awning was transformed into the museum's entrance.
5 / 13
One can clearly see the structural systems at work in this section drawing by Gae Aulenti, impressed on the wall on your way in. The new structures were designed to evoke and improve upon those of the old station.
One can clearly see the structural systems at work in this section drawing by Gae Aulenti, impressed on the wall on your way in. The new structures were designed to evoke and improve upon those of the old station.
6 / 13
For instance, the language of the metal trussing on the exterior of the vault system was carried over to the conspicuous white-painted walkways that bridge the entry foyer space on the third floor.
For instance, the language of the metal trussing on the exterior of the vault system was carried over to the conspicuous white-painted walkways that bridge the entry foyer space on the third floor.
7 / 13
Natural daylighting illuminates most of the galleries. The overlooking mezzanines, generous aisles, and absence of walls in the main hall allows for unobstructed views and expansive intermission areas in the atrium space, much like the waiting areas of tr
Natural daylighting illuminates most of the galleries. The overlooking mezzanines, generous aisles, and absence of walls in the main hall allows for unobstructed views and expansive intermission areas in the atrium space, much like the waiting areas of train stations.
8 / 13
Aulenti's team also included lighting consultant Piero Castiglioni and architectural consultant Richard Peduzzi. They attempted to scale down the huge size of the station by implementing a vast array of volumes to break up the interior space.
Aulenti's team also included lighting consultant Piero Castiglioni and architectural consultant Richard Peduzzi. They attempted to scale down the huge size of the station by implementing a vast array of volumes to break up the interior space.
9 / 13
To unify the variety of massing, a homogeneous stone covering is used for both floors and walls (and these diagonal planes, which seem to be on the brink of an in-between wall and ceiling).
To unify the variety of massing, a homogeneous stone covering is used for both floors and walls (and these diagonal planes, which seem to be on the brink of an in-between wall and ceiling).
10 / 13
In addition to the well-known Impressionist works, the museum also boasts a collection of architectural drawings and models. A longitudinal section model of Garnier's 'old' Paris Opera House sits at the very back of the museum, which took over two years t
In addition to the well-known Impressionist works, the museum also boasts a collection of architectural drawings and models. A longitudinal section model of Garnier's 'old' Paris Opera House sits at the very back of the museum, which took over two years to build by Richard Peduzzi, and stands at a massive height of nearly 8 feet. Photo by Dana Hamm
11 / 13
Even larger is the impressive 15 ft x 15 ft site model (at 1/1000 scale) of the 1914 Opera neighborhood in Paris, which you may not even realize is there—unless you take a moment to stop looking around and instead look downwards through glass the panels b
Even larger is the impressive 15 ft x 15 ft site model (at 1/1000 scale) of the 1914 Opera neighborhood in Paris, which you may not even realize is there—unless you take a moment to stop looking around and instead look downwards through glass the panels beneath your feet. Photo by A.Point, Musee d'Orsay
12 / 13
While lauded for the interior repurposing of existing structures, some criticized the additive volumes to be too monolithic, even 'mussolinian'. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the unifying geometric motifs around the space—especially the pla
While lauded for the interior repurposing of existing structures, some criticized the additive volumes to be too monolithic, even 'mussolinian'. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the unifying geometric motifs around the space—especially the play of squares and earth tones in tile, truss, cube volumes, doorways, iron-framed windows, and even down to the metal grates over the ventilation system.
13 / 13
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Musee d'Orsay is the spaciousness of its magnificent vaulted interior. The long central nave is punctuated by a series of bronze and stone sculptures, specifically six bronze 'allegorical sculptural groups' of the l
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Musee d'Orsay is the spaciousness of its magnificent vaulted interior. The long central nave is punctuated by a series of bronze and stone sculptures, specifically six bronze 'allegorical sculptural groups' of the late 19th century.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016
Details of the Calico collection.
Calico Wallpaper founders Nick and Rachel Cope showed us through their home in our March Issue, now step inside their studio.
April 28, 2016
william krisel pow 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
April 27, 2016
A pair of tech industry veterans worked with architect Christi Azevedo to turn a 1970s stick-frame house in San Francisco
For our upcoming issue we visit homes across the world that have integrated automation systems that help residents track environmental temperature, security, music, and more. We also explore some of the most exciting technology-driven developments happening today.
April 27, 2016