An Art Deco Pool Turned Museum

The Journal des Arts defines it as ‘the most beautiful French museum outside of Paris’: meet La Piscine in Roubaix

  • An Art Deco Pool Turned Museum
  • An Art Deco Pool Turned Museum
  • An Art Deco Pool Turned Museum
  • An Art Deco Pool Turned Museum

When architect Albert Baert designed La Piscine in Roubaix at the beginning of the 20th century, he certainly could not imagine that a gallery of modern art sculptures would have found room in the large 40-meter-long central pool.
Yet this is exactly what happened: a century later, La Piscine – André Diligent Museum of Art and Industry in Roubaix repurposed this huge Art Deco architectural complex transforming it from a spa into a museum attracting over 200,000 visitors a year to this corner of France set in the so-called French Flanders. One thing has not changed, tough: La Piscine has always been and still is at the heart of Roubaix, a place where the many different souls of this city meet.
Roubaix is ​​an industrial city, the capital of the French textile industry from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, until the country’s productive geography began to change. As a beacon of industrial mechanics and a source of great fortune (the famous La Redoutemail order company was born here), Roubaix increasingly lost its historical and social identity and its role.
La Piscine recovers and transfigures the historical, material and evolution heritage of the city and transforms it into experience by distributing it in chronological and thematic order in the spaces of its most iconic public building, where all the notable families of the city once spent their free time.
The Roubaix Industry Museum, founded in 1835, offers its heritage in the fields of science and the applied - arts, fashion, design and ceramics. The works of fine art, sculptures and paintings that bear the signatures of Giacometti, Rodin, Claudel and Picasso among others, celebrate beauty and creativity and complete the collection that earned La Piscine the title of National Museum of Industry and the Arts.
The transformation from pool into museum took place in two stages under the guidance of architect Jean-Paul Philippon. After the closure of the swimming pools in 1985, the year 2001 marked a new beginning and the opening of the museum, which can be reached by following the long red brick wall of the old adjacent cotton mill. 
The first renovation brought back to its original splendor of the Art Deco mosaics that surrounded the central pool and the thermal baths with their surrounding public spaces, where the over 70,000 artifacts and works of art from the museum’s collection are now exhibited: the sculptures are on display in the central pool, the paintings in the rooms of the side spa baths and the selection of ancient textile artifacts, from Ancient Egypt to today, in the spaces that once housed the showers, turned into display cases. 
The natural light from the large colored windows adds further charm to the layout, accounting for its definition given by the prestigious Journal des Artsas “the most beautiful French museum outside of Paris”.
On October 20, 2018, after two years of works, the new renovation of the museum was inaugurated with the addition of three new areas created by Jean Paul Philippon, in perfect harmony with the style of the existing buildings. These new spaces, covering over 2,000 square meters, will house additional services for the visitors (particularly for children) and exhibition areas devoted to the history of Roubaix and to emerging local artists.
In addition to the permanent collection, until the beginning of 2019 La Piscine-Roubaix will present three main exhibitions focusing respectively on Hervé di Rosa, a contemporary French painter, and to works by Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti: the sculpture Man With Sheepand the Portrait of Rol-Tanguy, a hero of the French resistance. In both cases, the works are the perfect excuse to tell about the historical and biographical context that produced them, interweaving history and art as it is in the nature of this literally unique museum.

Author : The Slowear Journal

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