Saturday, January 19, 2008

Toulouse: L'encore

Our second day in Toulouse took us to the city's Natural History Museum where the institution's expansion by Jean-Paul Viguier is nearing completion. Scheduled to reopen in the spring, the museum was established in the 1800s within a former convent. Viguier designed an arching two-story addition on the south side that calls to mind his project at the McNay, both in his selection of materials and the direct juxtaposition of new and old (but in this case, very old).

The contrast between the load-bearing walls of local red brick and Viguier's new envelope creates interesting moments as one follows the arc into the new exhibition spaces. New gardens just outside entice visitors to follow the sunlight for a respite from static displays of stuffed animals, rock specimens, and recreations of ancient artifacts from the surrounding region.

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