In the 19th and 20th centuries, the development of modern societies and of industrial powers went hand in hand with deep-seated transformations in architectural production. The collection reveals the ways in which architects, engineers and urban planners responded their changing society: housing and demographic shifts, economic crises, reconstruction and urbanisation, growth and industry, paid holidays and resorts, cultural democratisation and “sites of memory” – all of which form the backdrop of a history of the built environment underpinning our modern world.
The monumental model of the Crystal Palace in construction, the model of the Opéra de Paris, the general plan of Haussmann’s Paris, photos of the construction of the CNIT, a full-size recreation of Le Corbusier’s unité d’habitation in Marseilles and a model of Jean Nouvel’s Tour Sans Fins – all these and more teach us how to look at and understand architecture. The permanent exhibition tells the story of the people and the buildings that revolutionised the art of building and gave birth to modern architecture. Industrialisation is at the heart of this process: the development of new materials, such as iron and concrete, and of innovative methods of construction favouring technical feats and new forms. Skyscrapers, vast halls, concrete and glass walls, airports and train stations are all spectacular testimonies to this adventure.