Far from the process of ambiguous and controversial representation promoted by the postmodern convulsion that dominated the architectural scene of the early 80s, the work of Norman Foster, aligned with the thought of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, was promulgated in favor of a technological update of the modernity.
His work ponders the mechanical analogies of the modern movement and affirms these foundational values taking into account the natural character of the forms, the structural needs and the natural light. It also promotes an ethic of functionality through the application of rectilinear geometries that promote the abstract nature of its architecture, mediating the use of attractive technology materials and an unwavering predilection for the use of sustainable systems.
Foster’s technological rationalism is defined by encouraging the production of unified environments under light covers, transparent vertical planes, sophisticated profile structures and details of an exhaustive design.
In the project for the Carrée d’Art de Nimes, this purification is more important because the building is placed perpendicular to the side of the Maison Carrée, a rectangular building raised on a podium 17 meters high dating back to the year 16 ac In this way, the confrontation between the Roman house and the delicate building of Foster shows the antithesis between both technologies and exalts the temporality of the two architectures.
To avoid visual contamination of the site with hostile figures, Foster assembles a structure of proportions similar to the Roman building and puts half the surface of the museum under the floor level, necessary to meet the requirements of the program, which is divided into two well differentiated parts: above the ground level the library and the art gallery and in the subsoils the archives and a cinema.
A series of slender columns placed at regular intervals bursts onto the surface of the center to support a light profile roof that, because of its thin texture, dissolves into the height of the surrounding buildings without altering the nature of the site.
The plant is crossed by an atrium that takes all the heights, crowned by a skylight that enhances the space with the entrance of natural light. A staircase that descends from the opposite end in the direction of the temple formulates a dynamic allegory of the Roman courtyard, while allowing a kinetic view of the historic building.
Foster links his building to the historical plot while composing a series of gestures to improve the conditions of the site. Assimilating the characteristic terraces of Nimes, it elevates the podium of contemplation above the vehicular flow so that the urban traffic does not interfere with the lateral vision of the whole. In front of the access, the pedestrian street allows to extend the museum’s terrace and integrate it into the temple plaza, while revitalizing social life through the installation of a café and various elements of urban equipment.
From any angle, the museum privileges the diaphanous contemplation of the temple. The axial staircase becomes an extension of the square, while the use of transparent and reflective materials allows the filtering of natural light through the building, but also promotes the exaltation of the stone from the visual treatment.
As a consequence of a delicate balance of forms and materials, Foster granted the Carré d’Art a distinctive character, subtly abstract and absolutely rational. Its slight forms encourage an interesting coexistence between the present and the antiquity, or rather, between the elementary simplicity of the Roman building and the technological complexity of contemporaneity.
Marcelo Gardinetti. Architect
La Plata. Argentina. July 2019