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

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016