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Elevating Islands: Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier

The Museum of the Human Body, which will be part of the newly developed area Parc Marianne, is rooted in the humanist and medical tradition of Montpellier and its world renowned medical school, which dates back to the 10th century. The new museum will explore the human body from an artistic, scientific and societal approach through cultural activities, interactive exhibitions, performances and workshops.

Planning: BIG, A+Architecture, Egis, Base, L'Echo, Celsius Environnement, and CCVH
Location: 34267 Montpellier, France

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, façade
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, development of the building program

Program: The building's program is grouped into eight major functions with the reception hall in the center.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, development of the building program

Linear organization: The functions are organized along a main axis, allowing the building to merge with its surroundings.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, development of the building program

From linear organization to compression: The organization of the functions are compressed in order to remain within the site boundaries.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, development of the building program

From compression to organic shapes: By multiplying the interfaces between the spaces, the shape becomes more functional, catering to the needs of the building.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, site map

Site map

The 7,800 m² (ca. 84,000 sqf) museum is conceived as a confluence of the park and the city – nature and architecture – bookending the Charpak Park along with the Montpellier city hall. The building's program consists of eight major spaces on one level, organically shaped and lifted to form an underlying continuous space. Multiple interfaces between all functions create views to the park, access to daylight, and optimizing internal connections.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering perspective
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering space between pavillions
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering park
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering foot paths

'Like the mixture of two incompatible substances – oil and vinegar – the urban pavement and the parks turf flow together in a mutual embrace forming terraced pockets overlooking the park and elevating islands of nature above the city. A series of seemingly singular pavilions that weave together to form a unified institution – like individual fingers united together in a mutual grip', explains Bjarke Ingels.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering façade
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering islands
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering park at night
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, diagram conceptioning
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, diagram conceptioning
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, diagram conceptioning
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, diagram conceptioning

The museum's roof functions as an ergonomic garden: A dynamic landscape of vegetal and mineral surfaces that allow the park's visitors to explore and express their bodies in various ways – from contemplation to the performance, from relaxing to exercising, from the soothing to the challenging.

The façades of the Museum of the Human Body are transparent, maximizing the visual and physical connection to the surroundings. On the sinuous façade that oscillates between facing North and South, East and West, the optimum louver orientation varies constantly, protecting sunlight, while also resembling the patterns of a human fingerprint – both unique and universal in nature.

Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering reception
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering café
Museum of the Human Body in Montpellier, France, BIG and others, rendering interior

The jury, headed by the city's mayor Ms Hélène Mandroux, chose BIG over five other shortlisted international teams and praised BIG's design for combining innovative, environmental and functional qualities. The new Museum will contribute to Montpellier's rich scientific and cultural heritage, attracting tourists, families, as well as school classes, academics and art lovers.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2016, and the building will open its doors to the public in 2018.

Photos of the model in the gallery

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