The Soulages Museum was designed in 2014 by the RCR Arquitectes studio, the 2017 Pritzker Prize winner, in collaboration with G. Trégoüet. This museum was created in order to host French painter Pierre Soulages (“the painter of light”) work. Due to this, the museum is located in the artist’s town: Rodez. More exactly, it is located in the Jardin du Foirail, in the avenue Victor Hugo. Also, it is set into a hillside.
In relation to the museum form, we could say it is rather elongated and horizontal. At the same time, the space is composed of different steel boxes. These boxes vary in width, depth and height; creating a sensation of unevenness. The variability of this system of boxes allows us to perceive the exhibitions in different ways. On top of that, these boxes that house the works of art are connected through bridges and glass-covered corridors. This way, the building naturally guides us through the different spaces.
Besides, apart from its curious but simple form, one of the most important aspects is the contrast between shadows and lights. On the one hand, the boxes are windowless and dark. From my point of view, this lack of light contributes to the impressive and austere nature of the space. On the other hand, the connector elements such as the corridors are fully covered by glass, allowing the visitors to enjoy the town views. Because of this, they are extremely luminous. Also, while the light in the boxes is used to define the space or to delimit its sharp edges, in the corridors it is the opposite. In fact, the windows help us connect with the sky. This way, light helps break the barrier and the limits between the ground and the sky. It seems as if light could elevate us to the high mountains or to the white clouds. It definitely opens the space, making it infinite. The Catalan studio decided to focus on the use of shadows and light, in the attempt to imitate Soulages art. The artist, who is now 100 years old, is well know for being the “painter of light” and the “painter of black”.
Moreover, it is also quite interesting the selection of materials. The museum is mainly conformed by steel pieces. In the exterior, these pieces are covered in rust, giving them that brownish-reddish tone. In my opinion, the rust helps the building integrate with the surroundings, since it gives the steel a much more organic and natural tone. However, in the interior we can find perfectly polished and bright pieces. On top of that, the works are hung with magnets on these walls.
In conclusion, as in every project of RCR Arquitectes, the environment was totally respected. The trio’s well-known passion for nature resulted in a perfectly integrated space in its surroundings. Overall, it is a beautiful building. In fact, I’d even say that the choice of materials, the tension between light and shadows and its form help create a unique atmosphere, characterised by its serene and harmonic nature.
“Museum and landscape have a mutual feedback, merging into one, like the painter and his work,” said the firm
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