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André Svetchine’s initial building
The plans by the Russian architect André Svetchine (1908-1991), chosen by the museum’s founders, stipulated construction of the building on an embankment in the middle of a garden of Mediterranean varieties. Svetchine used the principle of “wedging” the mosaic between two apparent blind stone walls – a common architectural structure in his work of the 1950s.
The building makes its presence known by the monumental 400 m² mosaic in vitreous paste, laid by Heidi and Lino Mélano, which comprises two ceramic high-reliefs by Roland and Claude Brice. This decoration with sporting motifs (ball game and bicycle) is based upon Fernand Léger’s unfinished sketches for the Hannover stadium. In the entrance hall, the monumental 9 m² stained-glass window has also been produced from one of the painter’s drawings by the Lausanne-based master glaziers Aubert and Pitteloup.
Bernard Schoebel’s extension
In 1987, an extension was added to the museum, the design and construction of which the French Minister of Culture entrusted to the architect Bernard Schoebel, who won the Grand Prix de Rome (1964). The building’s new wing was added perpendicular to the initial museum and assumed the same proportions over two storeys in order to double the amount of exhibition space. Georges Bauquier chose to extend the mural studies by Fernand Léger by the same dimensions of the new façades – commissioning Heidi Melano to do this with mosaics. He also called on Jacques Loire to produce two large stained-glass windows using glass panels set in concrete. This technique, tried and tested by Léger for the churches in Audincourt and Courfaivre, enabled the master glazier to produce a series of panels with metal framework in the studio before assembling them on-site.
Marc Barani’s renovation
The Nice-based architect Marc Barani was tasked with renovating the museum in 2004. He opened up the west façade with a window, bathing the entrance hall in light and giving visitors a view of the Mediterranean grounds. At the request of Maurice Fréchuret, Director of the French national museums in Alpes-Maritimes, part of the ground floor was given over specifically to temporary exhibitions so that the first floor could be devoted to artefacts from the permanent collection.
Henri Fisch’s garden
Designed and laid out by Henri Fisch, working closely with the architect André Svetchine, the garden has become a very pleasant park over time – cool with plenty of shade for the museum’s visitors. The mosaics gracing the building’s façades can be admired from many spots around the grounds, which comprise a vast, gently rolling lawn planted with cypress trees and lined with pine trees and a row of olive trees. A series of monumental works produced according to Léger’s sketches is dotted about the garden.
Henri Fisch also worked with André Hermant on the French National Biblical Message Museum for Marc Chagall, with José Lluis Sert on the Maeght Foundation and, in 1984, on the Picasso Museum in Antibes for the sculpture and scent garden.