h2o Architectes took on the €10-million refurbishment of Musée d’Art Moderne in the French capital, working with Studio GGSV, who designed furnishings for the space.

Three years and €10 million went into the refurbishment of Paris cultural institution Musée d’Art Moderne (MAM), an arm of the Palais de Tokyo that houses over 15,000 contemporary works from the 20th and 21st century. Spearheaded by local practice h2o Architectes, the project was set in motion to improve the public reception area and working environment for the museum staff, humanizing the overall atmosphere. Studio GGSV was tasked to develop interior furnishings to complement h2o’s work on the 1937 building.

‘We wanted to open the museum out towards the city again,’ explains a representative for h2o Architectes. Consolidating the structure, enlarging spaces, updating technical installations and creating a stronger connection between areas were the primary bullets on the team’s to-do list; the museum’s entrance hall was restored to its original volume while outside doors and windows newly emphasize the feeling of public space and impact of the interior view. ‘As the museum remained open to the public throughout the project, we had to work doubly hard to complete the operation without disturbing visitors or staff. The refurbishment involved work on all floors and at every level, from relaying the foundations to the design of the furnishings and the signposting, and included demolition, decontamination, and creating new floors.’

The architects enhanced the existing concrete forms which have characterized the building since its inauguration, working with the client to find appropriate interpretations. Studying how the structure was designed to flow with the site’s natural topography, the team identified ways to accentuate the fluidity of interior space. The addition of two new curvaceous mezzanines were one such solution – they ‘provide intersecting views and new perspectives that emphasize the stratification of the museum’. This refined fluidity extends to the functional, too: individual areas were rethought to encourage a duality of use and alternative, flexible set-ups. Extra reception areas, a restaurant, repositioned facilities and staff rooms were integrated into MAM’s interstices.

With the furniture design, Studio GGSV also aimed to play on the existing monumental materiality. The designers, who synced their goals with those of the h2o team, were largely driven by the original interior: ‘There was a harmonious contrast between the monumental bareness of the architecture and the painted wooden furniture, which had a more domestic feel, creating a very particular sensation: the furniture brought a human scale to the functions of reception, orientation and service, while at the same time emphasizing the majestic aspect of the architecture. Inspired by this duality, we came up with the idea of evoking that furniture, of reflecting the spirit of that age, but doing so in a modern, contemporary style.’

The result of this inspiration are pieces that echo the existing use of marble and travertine. Devised to act in unison with the architectural reliefs, the designs – at once unobtrusive and striking – support the variety of uses required by the updated museum space.