Iconic building in the cultural and heritage landscape since 1991, the Museum of Stella Matutina, known as Musée de France, has witnessed a major renovation (37 329 m² of total built area and landscaping encompassing the museum and surrounding buildings).
Driven by a new scientific and cultural program, this project has focused on both, the buildings of the original sugar factory, and the museum trail, with a set of enriched collections and the use of innovative multimedia and interactive technologies. The project implementation covered the rehabilitation of the buildings, restoration of the collection items and the museographical aspect.
Transforming Stella into a societal museum
The museographic thought, which preceded the architectural one, consisted of looking at the old factory not only as a reminder of the history of the industrial and sugar sectors of the island, but also the base for a speech about the history of a territory, its settlements and its people.
The raw materials of the existing museum, the buildings of the old factory, the collection holdings and documentary resources were put together to reconstruct the history. This story, narrated by the museographer Laurent Laidet, places the building in the heart of the subject. The tour of the new museum is written in five chapters unfolding over 1200 linear meters (3600 m²).
If the tour sets out and explains the transformation of sugar cane and its successive innovations, the Stella Matutina museum is also intended as a tool to understand the history of Reunion society, strongly shaped by the sugar industry, and a tribute to the men and women who have built the Island as we know it nowadays and who gave it its identity. Additional spaces have also been allocated for the functioning of a modern museum: conservation, exhibition, mediation, broadcasting, didactic spaces …
Recapturing the factory
The team of L’Atelier architectes moved to the site of the old factory during the whole design phase. The challenge was to restore the original area and enhance the factory that has a strong symbolic attribute. Eventually, the museum is only the old factory, which has been revealed. Gateways and multiple split levels which rendered the museum unreadable were removed. The factory relives and extends its entirety and majesty.
A new skin dresses the building
The modification is deliberately light on the exterior of the factory. It was limited to the change of the outer part of the building in order to identify it better as a museum, marking its transition from an industrial into a cultural building. A slightly nobler treatment has been chosen with the use of copper cladding.
Louvers that make the North facade vibrate
The northern facade has been cladded with louvers. This large horizontal cladding ventilates the building while protecting it from sunlight. In addition, it provides a beautiful natural light inside which varies according to the time of day. From far away, the façade vibrates and sparkles in the sun ‘like sugar’.
Discrete extensions that blend into the «landscape»
The additions and extensions, which match the clients desires on having an archive centre, a temporary exhibition hall and an amphitheater, were placed in such a way that Stella’s silhouette remains unchanged. The extensions are hidden in the contours of the existing building and they do not alter the perception of Stella in any way and especially its silhouette as it emerges.
An exceptional construction site
About 60 machines were refurbished and staged in the museum. Some, by their large size, were restored in situ, with all the precaution that this job requires, on a site under construction. More generally, the restoration of nearly 600 collection items allowed local actors to take advantage of skills’ transfer from experienced personnel. Source by L’Atelier architects.
- Location: Saint-Leu, Reunion, France
- Architect: L’Atelier architectes
- Architects partners: Sylvain Guy & Guillaume Hazet
- Project Team: Aurélie Ménager, Nicolas Ducroux, Khaled Khamallah, Véronique Verdier, Julien Pougnard, Sandrine Sinama, Pierre Rolland, David Daguenet
- Interior Designer: Virginie Hubert
- Construction managers: Frédéric Griffe, Arash Esmalzaideh, Mickael Rivière
- Economist: Sylvie Costa
- Project Management Assistance: Olivier Malherbe
- Scenographer: Changement à vue
- Museographer: Laurent Laidet
- Lighting designer: 8’18’’
- Landscape design: Folléa-Gautier, Zone Up
- Expographer: Eric Verrier
- Acoustics: Acoustique Vivié & Associés
- Carpentry expert: AR&C
- Construction site management: L’atelier Architectes + Dardel Ingénierie
- Technical control: Bureau Veritas
- Safety and security at work coordination: Socotec Sud
- Fire safety system: Inset
- Diagnostics coordination:Tauw + Envirotech
- Client: Région Réunion
- Area: 37,329 m2
- Year: 2015
- Photographs: Hervé Douris, Courtesy of L’Atelier architectes
Article by Marco Rinaldi